Work begins on wounded Marine’s home
by Madasyn Czebiniak
Feb 25, 2014 | 6168 views |  0 comments | 110 110 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ben Tomlinson is all smiles at the artist rendering of the new smart home that will be built in Jacksonville by Stephen Siller's Tunnel to Towers Foundation.  (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Ben Tomlinson is all smiles at the artist rendering of the new smart home that will be built in Jacksonville by Stephen Siller's Tunnel to Towers Foundation. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
JACKSONVILLE — In six to eight months, former Marine Sgt. Ben Tomlinson will be able to open the doors in his home by moving his fingers across his tablet computer or smartphone.

The home, at 701 George Douthit Drive, will have wide hallways, automated doors, and cabinets that rise and lower. It will have three bedrooms, in case Tomlinson wants to have a few buddies over, and a security system, in case some guests are unwelcome.

The rest of the features will depend on him.

On Tuesday a crowd of more than 200 showed up for a groundbreaking at the site where Tomlinson’s adaptable home will soon be. Across the street, hundreds of students from nearby Jacksonville High School — Tomlinson’s alma mater — clapped when he took to a stage. After those in attendance heard from speakers, Tomlinson, along with 11 others, dug golden shovels deep into the ground and tossed fresh brown dirt high into the air.

Click here for more photos of the groundbreaking

Tomlinson was wounded while on his second tour in Afghanistan in 2010. He was shot while providing rooftop security for his team, leaving him with limited mobility below his chest.

Tomlinson, who had a smile on his face through most of the ceremony, expressed his gratitude for the support he has continued to receive since arriving home in January 2012.

“It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?” Tomlinson said of the home. “It’s kind of something ... a lot of people have to work a lifetime to be able to own their own house. It’s a lifelong kind of dream and pursuit. I’m kind of getting a big head start on this.”

Tomlinson’s home, which will cost about $500,000, is one of 37 donated through the program Building for America’s Bravest. The program, a partnership between the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Gary Sinise Foundation, provides adaptable homes to troops wounded in the line of duty.

According to John Hodge, the vice president of operations for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, the generosity of several organizations made the home possible. AOD Federal Credit Union, the Semper Fi Fund and the nonprofit group Hope for the Warriors each donated $50,000. Veterans United, a home mortgage company that caters to veterans, also contributed. A May 2013 concert by Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band in Jacksonville also raised money.

Chris Kuban, a spokesman for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, said the features of the home will be tailored to Tomlinson’s wants and needs. Builders and designers will talk with Tomlinson about his daily routine and lifestyle to find out what will make his life easier.

Tomlinson doesn’t yet know all the aspects of his new home and how it will actually work, but said it will help him with his independence.

“I’ve seen YouTube videos and things but the capabilities it has are kind of beyond me still,” he said. “I can’t wait to get in it and see what I can do with all the technology they’re going to put in there.”

Though he helped design the floor plan, Tuesday was the first time Tomlinson had seen the final design, he said.

“They kind of kept the final thing at bay so they could kind of surprise me a little bit,” he said. “This is just another example of me being spoiled by you guys, and by everyone involved. It’s great, it’s an awesome feeling.”

Staff writer Madasyn Czebiniak: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @MCzebiniak_Star.

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