CANNON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Actor Gary Sinise, who played Lieutenant Dan in “Forrest Gump,” contributed to a life-changing gift to a wounded Tennessee veteran.
The Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. Program helped build a Smart Home for Cannon County resident Franz Walkup, and the home is anything but ordinary.
Walkup didn’t want any fanfare but the greeting he received at his new home was very fitting for this deserving soldier.
“You get a little emotional. It’s surreal you know, it doesn’t happen to everybody,” Walkup said.
It’s been a long awaited day for Walkup and his wife Shannon. They now get to move into their forever home.
“We really went over the top with emotions, and we’re really excited to finally move into this house,” said Walkup. “It’s more than what we could ever dream of.”
The everyday freedom most people take for granted was stolen from Walkup in September 2010.
He was attacked while serving in Afghanistan. He was shot five times, underwent 78 surgeries, lost his leg, and his ability to live a normal life.
“It’s been a long road,” Walkup said.
But the Gary Sinise Foundation and others have given it all back with a Smart Home.
Everything is operated using an iPad and is adapted to accommodate Walkup’s wheelchair.
“I can get through the hallways, I can get through the kitchen, and everything is wider in the kitchen. I can turn away and grab stuff,” Walkup told News 2. “I’m not bumping into walls, everything is easier.”
The Walkups have endured many obstacles to get to this day, including being denied at first by the VA for a grant to build a house.
The administration said he wasn’t injured enough.
When the Walkups thought it couldn’t get any worse, someone broke into the new home as it was near completion. The thief stole all the appliances, including the TVs mounted on the walls.
“You never think that, you know, it’s going to happen to you especially with Franz’s name on the outside on the sign as you come into the driveway,” Shannon said.
The family is now looking forward to the future in their new home.
Family members, friends, and people in the community took a tour of the house Thursday and were there to tell the Walkup family “welcome home.”
“To see a veteran and their family actually moved into that home, it’s a great day,” said Scott Schaeperkoetter, Director of Operations for the R.I.S.E. Program. “It’s so heartwarming.”
This is the second Tennessee wounded veteran the Gary Sinise Foundation has built a Smart Home for.
Overall, they’ve built homes for 31 wounded veterans and 21 others are currently in the works.
The foundation is always looking for donations to continue to serve our heroes. For more information on how you can help, click here.