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Triple-amputee Marine gets keys to 'smart home' in Temecula

Money to build and modify the home for the Afghanistan war veteran was raised by actor Gary Sinise and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

September 11, 2012|By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
  • Battalion Chief John Carroll of the New York Fire Department congratulates Cpl. Juan Dominguez during a ceremony to present a new house to him and his wife, Alexis. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, named after a New York firefighter who died when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, aims to build homes for 50-plus triple amputees and five quadruple amputees.
Battalion Chief John Carroll of the New York Fire Department congratulates… (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)

TEMECULA — To visit Cpl. Juan Dominguez in his new "smart home" adapted to his combat injuries, his friends will wind through streets with names from the traumatic event that led to the Marines being sent to Afghanistan.

Off Meadows Parkway, they'll cruise along Nacke Drive, then Bradshaw Drive, Dahl Drive and Lyles Drive, all named for people who died aboard United Airlines Flight 93, one of the planes hijacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.

From Lyles Drive, they'll come to Rivera Drive, also named for someone who was on the flight that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers and crew members thwarted the terrorists' plan to crash the aircraft in Washington.

PHOTOS: Triple-amputee veteran given home

Midway down Rivera Drive is the home presented Tuesday to the 28-year-old Dominguez, who lost both legs and his right arm in Afghanistan in October 2010 in a roadside bomb explosion while on a walking patrol in the Sangin district of Helmand province, long a Taliban stronghold.

The home will give him a "second chance at life," Dominguez said at a short and emotional ceremony with his wife, Alexis, standing by his side.

The two-story home has been modified with an elevator, self-flushing toilets, easy opening cabinets, and doors, lighting and heating that can be controlled with the touch of an iPad.

Money to build and modify the home was raised by actor Gary Sinise and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

Siller was a New York firefighter killed on 9/11 after running three miles through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel with 75 pounds of gear on his back to reach the crumbling towers of the World Trade Center. He was among 343 firefighters killed that day.

By year's end, the Siller foundation, with Sinise's help, will have funded 20 homes for U.S. military personnel grievously wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The foundation's goal is to build homes for 50-plus triple amputees and five quadruple amputees.

Dominguez was in a wheelchair in the Chicago airport when he was spotted by Stephen Siller's brother, Frank. On the back of his wheelchair was a Purple Heart. From that chance meeting came a plan to build a "smart home" home for Dominguez.

For the location of his new home, Dominguez, who grew up in Deming, N.M., picked Temecula in southern Riverside County, which is home to numerous active-duty and retired Marines. The city has "adopted" the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion from Camp Pendleton and the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan.

All of the streets in the new Standard Pacific Homes Reserve at Paseo del Sol subdivision are named after 9/11 victims. The names, selected before the plan to build a home for Dominguez was adopted, reflect the upscale city's determination never to forget 9/11 and its aftermath, officials said.

Ned Wallace, president of Los Angeles-based Wallace Air Cargo, contributed $450,000; Irvine-based Standard Pacific Homes found ways to trim $250,000 off construction costs; and Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band raised more than $130,000 in a benefit concert. (Lt. Dan, Sinise's character in "Forrest Gump," lost both legs in Vietnam.)

PHOTOS: Triple-amputee veteran given home

The morning ceremony was replete with speeches, a Marine band, flags lining Rivera Drive and a huge flag keeping the new home from view until the keys were presented to Dominguez and his wife. The exchange occurred just before 7 a.m., the moment 11 years ago when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, killing Stephen Siller.

In his remarks to the audience, which included a company of Marines and a dozen curious neighbors, Dominguez thanked Sinise, Wallace, the Stephen Siller foundation, the home builder, and others.

And he asked that people "never forget" that the war in Afghanistan, seemingly so distant from Temecula, is still raging.

"We still have a lot of brothers coming back severely wounded," he said. "Pray for them."

tony.perry@latimes.com

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