A wounded veteran from Minnesota, who lost three of his limbs while serving in Afghanistan, got the keys Tuesday to a brand new “smart home” designed just for his needs. The house was built for Mark and Heather Litynski on a 45-acre tract of densely wooden property in Gnesen Township, north of Duluth, the Duluth News Tribune reports.
Construction began in September, and several local charities and area contractors chipped in to build the home which is designed to be fully accessible for Mark, who walks on prosthetic legs or uses a wheelchair.
Mark and Heather Litynski grew up in New Hope and were married in 2009, shortly before he was deployed to Afghanistan with the Marine Corps.
In November 2010, Litynski was on foot patrol in Afghanistan when he stepped on an IED and it blew up. He lost both his legs above the knee and his left arm above the elbow, and suffered other serious injuries that required numerous surgeries and two years of intensive therapy, the Sun Post reported.
After returning to Minnesota, the couple lived in Crystal with Heather’s parents for a while. Heather told the Sun Post how she carried Mark on her back, up and down the stairs, to get around the house.
They eventually moved into an apartment in Minneapolis that was wheelchair accessible.
When they had the opportunity to choose a place for their new home to be built, they chose Duluth because they both spent their childhood summers in the area, according to the News Tribune.
Their new $500,000 house has many functions, such as lights and appliances that are controlled by an iPad. The living space has an open design, and the halls and doorways are wider to accommodate Mark's wheelchair. The cabinets and cooking surfaces are lower so Mark can easily reach them.
The house was built through Building for America’s Bravest, a program that builds adaptable smart homes for people who have been wounded in war.
Building for America's Bravest is a partnership between Gary Sinise Foundation’s RISE – Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment – and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Those two groups coordinate funding from national and local donors to pay for the projects.
(More photos of the Litynski house and its features are on the Gary Sinise Foundation Facebook page)
In September 2012, the Litynskis were profiled in a Huffington Post series called Beyond the Battlefield, which explores the physical and emotional challenges that catastrophically wounded soldiers encounter after returning home.
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The couple is expecting their first child in November.