For nearly 10 years, the Gary Sinise Foundation's R.I.S.E. program has helped build ADA-compliant homes for severely-wounded veterans.
During a patriotic ceremony Wednesday afternoon in Niceville, the foundation presented a brand-new, mortgage-free smart home to retired Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. Bobby Dove, who lost his right arm and most of his right leg to an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2012.
"It feels great," said Dove after walking inside his new home. "Obviously, it's beautiful. But you know that such a burden is lifted off...ease of use for the home just makes it a million times better."
In front of a crowd of neighbors, service members and family, Dove, along with his wife Mary-Elizabeth, and their two children Wyatt and Eva, walked into their new home on Sunset Cove.
"We are here today to celebrate a new beginning for Bobby and his family," said Scott Schaeperkoetter, director of operations for the Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E.) program.
The Dove family was previously living in a non-ADA compliant home. Simple tasks, such as getting out of the shower, are difficult without two working legs, said Dove, who spends a majority of his time in a wheelchair.
"Most of the time people see me wearing a prosthetic, a leg or a leg and an arm...but what they don't realize is — myself and most amputees — as soon as you get home you take it off and you get into a wheelchair," he explained.
Dove and his family took part in the building and designing process of the home — from the height of the countertops to the color of the walls. And all of the accessibility features were made with Dove in mind.
"None of it was done in a cookie-cutter fashion," he said.
The home also comes equipped with a "smart home" feature where many tasks such as dimming the lights or locking the doors can be done with an iPad.
Dove joined the Army Special Forces in 2008 and later earned his Green Beret in 2011. On June 9, 2012, Dove was driving a dirt bike on his way to switch security positions when he ran over an IED. He was stabilized by his teammates and transported to Walter Reed National Medical Center where he underwent extensive surgeries. He served with the 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base until his retirement in 2014. Now, he runs his own charter fishing business, Hooligan Charters.
Mary-Elizabeth said she feels her husband's morale and spirit will be lifted having more independence in the new home. And the kids are looking forward to moving in.
"They're really excited," she said. "My son saw the playground yesterday and he was like 'Can we live here now?'"
The R.I.S.E program has provided about 70 homes to veterans and averages about eight to 10 new homes a year.
Gary Sinise, who is known for his role of Lt. Dan in the movie "Forrest Gump" has been an advocate for veterans for more than 40 years. The actor was not in attendance for Wednesday's ceremony. In a letter addressed to the family, he gave thanks for Dove's military service and welcomed the family home.
"Our hope is that this new custom smart home designed and built especially for you and your family, will act as a daily reminder of our thanks from a grateful nation," he wrote.