A procession of North Texas Patriot Guard motorcycle riders, Denton County Sheriff’s Office and Denton County Emergency Services District No. 1 vehicles escorted SPC Wheeler, his wife Kristi and son Nicholas to their new home. Following an outdoor ceremony, SPC Wheeler raised an American flag and entered the customized home for the first time.
Wheeler joined the U.S. Navy in 1991, and served as a firefighter on the USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier during the Gulf War. He was honorably discharged in 1993, but the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 led him to re-enlist. He was critically injured in 2002 while participating in a training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk. After jumping out of a Black Hawk helicopter at 1,500 feet, his parachute malfunctioned at approximately 250 feet, causing him to hit the ground at full force, according to a news release from the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. He suffered catastrophic damage to both legs, the L4s and L5s in his spine were shattered, and striking his head left him with a traumatic brain injury, and cone and rod issues that left him legally blind. After dealing with pain and numerous infections for years, Wheeler opted to have bilateral above-knee amputations in 2015.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s Smart Home Program builds specially adapted smart homes to help our most catastrophically injured veterans to reclaim their day-to-day independence. Wheeler’s smart home is completely accessible, with automatic doors, oversized doorways and wider hallways. The kitchen cabinet shelving is designed to enable easy access to plates, cups and bowls, and a mechanized lift allows the stove to be raised and lowered to wheelchair height. Every feature of the home, including the lights, thermostat and security system, can be controlled via an app on a smart device or via touch screens built into the home.
For more information on the Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s Smart Home Program, visit T2T.org.