Sinise Foundation presents adapted smart home to New Castle vete - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Sinise Foundation presents adapted smart home to New Castle veteran

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NEW CASTLE, Pa. -

Six years ago, U.S. Marine Corps major Eric Burkett lost parts of both legs when his aircraft went down in Morocco. Today, he has a new specially adapted smart home thanks to the Gary Sinise Foundation.

As Eric Burkett rolled in through the front door Thursday morning, he knew he was home.

"It's crazy. It's crazy to look back and think of the road that took us here," said Burkett.

A road that included a long rehab process and the daily struggle of living in homes that simply weren't made for someone in a wheelchair.

"Every inch of the way there was a step, there was a narrow doorway," said Burkett.

Problems that go away now, thanks to this specially adapted smart home presented by the Gary Sinise Foundation's R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program.

The home features an elevator, numerous rooms, and spaces that allow for a wheelchair to navigate easily, along with a full archery range for Burkett, who won gold in the sport at the Invictus Games.

"Forever, Eric doesn't have to worry about steps anymore. Forever. That is going to play a huge impact on his life, his family's life," said Scott Schaeperkoetter, the director of operations for the Gary Sinise Foundation's R.I.S.E. program.

Family is at the heart of this. From Eric's wife and six kids to his dad just up the road, a retired Marine himself, who also helped out on the project through his construction business.

"An opportunity to build a legacy for not only Eric, help him out, but for my grandchildren as well," said Eric's father Richard Burkett.

Now they want to take this gift and pay it forward. They have an entire guest suite set up in their basement for any other wounded veteran who needs help.

"I wanted a safe, secure, loving, warm house for people to stay at," said Burkett.

"He's taking great tragedy and turning it into something good," said Bob Gohsler, who served with Eric in the Marines. 

"I want it to be a place where your soul is restored," said Burkett.

Burkett is calling the property "Stillwater."

As he raised the flag, on Flag Day no less, he gave thanks for a group of people who've changed his life forever.

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