Jonathon Blank was serving as a Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom until 2010 when he lost both of his legs.
Life after a war is never easy. Mentally, emotionally and even physically, life may never feel the same again. But Gary Sinise is trying to make things easier for the men and women who have sacrificed so much for their country. The actor and philanthropist has been helping many veterans through the Gary Sinise Foundation. One such veteran is Jonathon Blank. According to FOX 13, he was serving as a Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom until 2010 when he lost both of his legs. An IED exploded on him and his comrades. He sustained shrapnel wounds to his left arm and head. The blast from the IED severed his legs. After years of medical treatment, the 32-year-old veteran continues to endure chronic pain, migraines, and insomnia and though he lost his legs, the injury has not changed his attitude.
Gary Sinise gives veteran who lost both of his legs in Afghanistan a custom-built smart home https://t.co/ZK6uhPQviz— 🇺🇸Lionel🇺🇸 (@LionelMedia) November 3, 2019
"I feel like maybe this was kind of destiny for a recon marine that thrived on challenges to be challenged the rest of his life," Blank said. "Stay hungry for it, but you know some days it kind of gets old." Blank applied to be part of the "Rise Program" which helps build Smart Homes for veterans and first responders. According to the official site, it reads: We’re constructing one-of-a-kind specially adapted smart homes for our nation’s most severely wounded heroes. This initiative predominantly supports our Post 9/11 defenders, that were injured in combat operations or during training while performing their duties. These 100% mortgage-free homes ease the daily challenges faced by these heroes and their families who sacrifice alongside them. The program also stated that "through R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment), we’re building specially adapted smart homes for our most severely wounded heroes. We’re also providing home modifications, mobility devices, and adapted vehicles to our injured, wounded, ill, and/or aging heroes." The program founded by actor Gary Sinise, who played Lt. Dan Taylor in the film Forrest Gump, had built 58 homes by October of last year.
During National Military Appreciation Month, we pay tribute to generations of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and coastguardsmen whose service has ensured our freedom and democracy. Here's how donations serve our nation's heroes and their families. https://t.co/kjZRuiXSht pic.twitter.com/wOf8ur9KXX— GarySiniseFoundation (@GarySiniseFound) May 22, 2020
Ten months ago, the veteran got a call from Gary Sinise himself. "I was accepted. He told me to save his number and to call him anytime," Blank said. Blank will be able to do things that would've taken a lot of time now with just the push of a button on an Ipad. According to KSL, Pete Franzen, senior project manager for the Gary Sinise Foundation, said Blank deserves a home “that will make his next phase of life much easier.” The project will be completed sometime this year.
Jonathon Blank lost both his legs and was severely injured in an explosion during his deployment in Afghanistan in 2011. Thank you for your service. 🇺🇸 https://t.co/RX3T0VdUlr— Shared (@SharedDotCom) October 28, 2019
"It’s such an incredible gift,” Blank said. The Marine corp said that his fellow troops also got pretty emotional on hearing the news. “Even some of those tough guys, when they found out about this, they got pretty emotional about it,” he said. The people who care for him knew the home would change his life for the better. Jonathon Blank had joined the Marine Corps in 2006 after graduating from high school and was soon deployed to Afghanistan. When he first moved to Utah from Kansas, he said he loved the city’s mountain views and proximity to national parks. He even goes on hikes with the help of his friends.
Marine veterans Jonathon Blank and John Nelson share a remarkable brotherhood. Blank lost his legs in Afghanistan and now they explore together — with Nelson carrying Blank on his back.@TVKateSnow shares their story tonight on @NBCNightlyNews as the friends conquer Mt. Whitney. pic.twitter.com/E6unpsTadv— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) November 10, 2019
“Honestly, I didn’t really know that I would be so involved with the planning and the layout of the building,” he said. A lot of personal details are going into the making of his home, after consulting the veteran. He said the house will feature large windows so that he can enjoy the mountain views, which he finds therapeutic. Blank’s girlfriend at the time, Brittney Harris, of Sandy, said she’s happy he’ll have a home that he can live in comfortably. “He’s dragging, hauling all his stuff up and downstairs all the time,” she said. “Nothing slows him down, but just to imagine cupboards that he can pull down and reach rather than having to jump up there — it’s going to be such a huge difference for him,” she said.
Jonathon Blank was deployed to Afghanistan where he survived a blast from an improvised explosive device the severed both his legs. Now, nine years after the explosion that changed his life, he will be able to get the home of his dreams. #hunting https://t.co/8vjBTb9b6C pic.twitter.com/jzaFbH8G5a— Gear To Get Out (@GearToGetOut) October 25, 2019
According to the donation page: In 2006, when the opportunity arose, Jonathon joined the United States Marine Corps and was deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom two years later. On October 26, 2010, just months after he decided to extend his enlistment, Jonathon was severely injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) while conducting a long-range reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan. Jonathan deserves a home to allow the next phase of his life to be made easier. He plans on having his R.I.S.E. home built in the Wasatch Mountains region in Utah, that will be specifically tailored to his needs.
Donations can be made here to help build his dream home. Many other veterans have already moved into their smart homes, thanks to the incredible Gary Sinise and his foundation. A real American hero!