A 101st Airborne Division veteran whose combat injuries caused him to lose his legs was recently granted a smart home by the Gary Sinise Foundation.
Retired Army Sgt. Christopher Kurtz of Adams, Tennessee, received the keys to his four-bedroom, three-bath mortgage-free home after being approved for one two years ago.
“We help veterans and first responders through their healing process,” said Gary Sinise Foundation CEO Mike Thirtle. “When Gary wanted us to execute providing these homes to veterans, he wanted us to make them customable and tailorable for them and their families.”
The Kurtzes’ bungalow home was designed to fit the veteran’s needs and includes wheelchair-accessible countertops, wide halls, drop-down shelving, and smart technology to control everything in the house with an iPad.
“The house that stands before you today is a small symbol of appreciation and respect from a grateful nation,” Sinise said in a video shown during the event.
The actor played the role of Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump.” In the movie, he was a disabled veteran who served as Gump’s platoon leader during the Vietnam War. Later, he becomes his best friend and business partner.
“Shortly after the movie opened, I was contacted by the Disabled American Veterans Organization inviting me to their national convention where they wanted to present me with an award,” Sinise explained. “I met hundreds if not thousands of people who were not playing a part in a movie.”
This motivated Sinise to start the Gary Sinise Foundation, which has provided mortgage-free custom homes for veterans for over 10 years, allowing them to regain their independence.
“I am incredibly grateful to the Gary Sinise Foundation, not only for what they do for the military community, but for changing my life with this new home that will help restore my independence and make life easier for our family,” the soldier said.
Kurtz enlisted in the US Army in February 2009 in hopes of turning his life around. Serving in the military would also be a crucial step to earning a higher education, and it would honor the legacy of his relatives who were members of the armed forces.
Kurtz operator with the 101st Airborne Division to the Arghandab River Valley region of Afghanistan on June 13, 2010. Almost immediately, the group encountered combat situations every day.
While on foot patrol in December of that year, a remote improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near where Kurtz was walking.
Kurtz suffered terrible injuries from the blast. It tore through his legs, caused him to lose two fingers on his left hand, and broke his pelvis in three different places.
Once the soldier was on the battlefield, he was stabilized Air Field and cleared to Kandahar then to Landstuhl, Germany, before being brought to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to undergo additional surgeries. Both his legs were eventually amputated above the knee.
After four years of active duty service, Kurtz medically retired from the Army in 2013 with the rank of Sergeant.
Kurtz’s smart home has a garage with machinery for welding and crafting, gifted by his friends at work in PTL Fabricators. The veteran says he wants to use the shop to pay it forward.
“I want to develop products and make already-made products possibly better so that I can help others that are in similar situations,” he said.
Several local businesses helped complete the home, including 31W, PTL, A-Team Concrete, Coffmans Home Decor, Androws Flooring, Heritage Tile, ABC Supply, Southern Roofing, and Screaming Eagle Concrete.
The March 24 turnover of the home came at an opportune time as Kurtz and his wife, Heather, recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.
“It’s a bit overwhelming sometimes when you think about how much went into (building the house), how many people put their hands on it, and it’s very humbling,” Kurtz said. “Now, I owe the world.”
Click on the video below to see the unveiling of the Kurtzes’ new home.
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