By Jessi Mitchell WRBL
We first introduced you to Michael Schlitz at Thanksgiving. After a bomb hit his vehicle in Iraq in 2007 he suffered burns to 85 percent of his body, lost both arms and the vision in his left eye.
The ground has now been broken for Schlitz’s brand new smart home, being built for him by the Americans he fought so hard to protect.
Mike Schlitz runs in 5Ks, dances at parties and speaks in public, but his life is far from easy. Now a specially designed smart home will return a small sense of normalcy to his daily routine.
Schlitz could choose to live anywhere but he’s breaking ground here. He’s a Ranger and he wants to be close to Fort Benning where all Rangers are trained. “A lot of the things I get is because of the Vietnam era guys, so I want to make sure I continue that for the veterans that are serving right now, when they get out, they won’t have any worries either,” he says.
The Gary Sinise Foundation, Building for America’s Bravest Foundation and The Tunnel to Towers Foundation are coming together to provide a state-of-the-art facility to cater to Schlitz’s needs.
Terrence Tierney, managing director of Building for America’s Bravest, says, “He’s been involved every step of the way. He sat with the architect, he’s made design changes, he’s worked closely with designing the outside of the home, so this is Mike’s home. We’re just here to build it for him.”
It will come complete with automatic cabinets, doors and even bathtubs. The entire house will be controlled by iPad, and Schlitz says the most important part of the design for him is giving his mom her own space.
He says, “she needs her own place that she can also call home so to be able to have some separation in the home is going to be really important to me.”
His is the seventh smart home built by the foundations for severely disabled veterans. Gary Sinise made a mission of helping vets after his iconic role as Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump. Through concerts and other fundraisers he has rallied other patriots to get involved.
Schlitz and his fellow wounded warriors speak to audiences everywhere about their experiences, and don’t regret a day in the field. John Hodge, director of operations for Tunnel to Towers Foundations, says, “Each and every one was asked, ‘If you had to do it over again, would you do it over again?’ and even knowing how it turned out, everyone to a tee, Michael being most vocal of all, said ‘Absolutely! I’d love to do it, we would go back and do it all over again for our country.’”
Schlitz’s home is still $300,000 short of budget, so the foundations are asking for your help to get it complete. You can contribute to any of the foundations at their websites: here for Sinise, here for Building for America’s Bravest and here for Tunnel to Towers.
They hope Schlitz will be able to move in by July. Local craftsmen can also help in the construction of the house. There will be a Community Day nearer the completion for landscaping and finishing touches.