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'Smart' house gives war vet more independence
Quadruple amputee Afghan war vet receives keys to "smart" home in Spotsylvania County, says others are the true heroes

 Yolanda Ruescher, a neighbor and military nurse, embraces Sgt. John Peck after the Veterans Day ceremony to dedicate the specially designed home for him in Spotsylvania.
photos by ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 11/13/2012

BY MICHAEL ZITZ

Marine Corps Sgt. John Peck, who lost all four limbs in 2010 after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan while clearing the way for his unit, received the keys to a $450,000 "smart" house at the Estates of Chancellorsville during a Veterans Day ceremony Monday.

"This means a lot," he said during a ceremony in front of his new home attended by about 150.

Kristen Pruitt, co-owner of American Heritage Homes--which constructed what she's called a "very custom" house--handed him the keys.

"Thank you to everyone," Peck said. "Thank you doesn't go far enough. I will never forget this."

He insisted he is not a hero. "I find the people who do not come back to be the heroes," he said.

This was an especially meaningful Veterans Day, he said, because "not only is it the beginning of my new life," 55 more veterans also will get new homes soon.

John Hodge, director of operations for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, said the organization is teaming up with the Gary Sinise Foundation to build similar houses for veterans--five for quadruple amputees and 50 for triple amputees. The partnership is called Building for America's Bravest.

Sinise is the actor who played Lt. Dan in "Forrest Gump."

"I can't imagine the kind of courage, the kind of honor, the kind of valor Sgt. Peck possesses," Hodge said.

Peck's home is specifically designed so the 27-year-old can live with a degree of independence he hasn't experienced in two years.

Because he retained more of his left arm, for example, features such as faucets are placed so he can easily reach them. He is also aided by the various electronic features that are activated by the push of a button or a touch on his iPad.

Other aspects are typical of universal design, such as a roll-under range, and roll-in shower. There are no steps or other barriers in the house.

Contributing money for the house were the Semper Fi Fund, Hope for Warriors and a grant from the VA Administration. Helping to get Peck settled in were Bassett Furniture and Hilldrup Moving & Storage.

Peck has twice been awarded the Purple Heart.


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