United States Army Sergeant Eric Hunter (Ret.) didn’t recognize the incoming phone number on his cell phone.
After letting his phone ring for a couple seconds, he quickly realized that the area code was a Los Angeles number. As an aspiring actor, Hunter believed the call could be in response to a potential acting role.
Little did he know, he had just answered the call of a lifetime.
Representatives from the Gary Sinise Foundation were on the line and told Hunter that he was just awarded an innovative home in Georgia. It would be built under the Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E) program.
Hunter was overwhelmed with joy. He was a little speechless as he started to tear up with excitement. After everything he had gone through as a wounded veteran, he couldn’t help but to smile.
“We are so grateful for everything the foundation is doing for us,” Hunter said. “To be a person receiving a home from them is just the craziest thing to us. We are incredibly thankful for it.”
Hunter’s story has inspired so many people. While on deployment in Afghanistan six years ago, he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). Hunter survived the blast, but lost his right leg and he shattered his left leg.
The injuries sent him to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he spent four years undergoing 61 surgeries. The pain took a toll on Hunter as he questioned whether he would be able to provide for his family.
“I had this thought that went through my mind where I felt worthless and I felt it wasn’t in my cards to have a good life,” Hunter said.
Still, Hunter stayed faithful as he persevered through his comeback. He didn’t want to let people he loved down and vowed to return to full strength.
On Friday, he got his wish. His family was able to see the new house and get reassurance that a blessing was right around the corner.
“Being here today shows that it was in the cards,” Hunter said. “This gives me piece of mind as the house is incredible.”
The Gary Sinise Foundation honored the family with a “Walls of Honor” event to celebrate their new residence. Family members, friends, and supporters all shared personal stories and wrote their gratitude on the interior of the walls. The personal notes will be one of many attractions of the home.
“It felt unreal up until this point,” Hunter said. “Now seeing everyone here, it is amazing.”
Once completed, the house will also feature seamless technology that allows Hunter to control every appliance. He can open doors, close blinds, control lights, and even control the air conditioner with one touch of a button.
The home layout will also feature the Hunters’ personal style. With the help of local realtor Kay Fulp of Better Homes and Garden Real Estate, they found a location in Fayetteville that will accommodate a garden and outdoor space.
According to Fulp, the decision to help was a no-brainer. She couldn’t wait to help those in need and said that the entire house amenities were covered with donations from the community.
“We have an awesome community and everybody has jumped on board to help out,” Fulp said. “The community is just phenomenal.”
Fulp was able to get local contractors to fund the brick and stone siding, garage doors, electrical and plumbing, the windows, gutters, and so much more.
“Kay has been instrumental in finding donors and suppliers and everything in between,” Hunter said.
Another person that lent a helping hand was United States Army Master Sergeant Cedric King (Ret). King also received a smart home from the R.I.S.E. program and formed a friendship with Hunter and his family.
They were together at the Walter Reed National Military Center and have stayed in contact throughout the entire process. King said that he is proud of Hunter and says the home is just a testament of how things always shake out.
“This is just a representation that the bad times do happen, but there is always some sort of equal sign,” King said. “I know it looked bad for him, but look what he has now. He has a family and a new home, and he is going to bless so many people because of it.”
The home will be completed later this year. Once finished, it will be the 65th home that the Gary Sinise Foundation has donated to veterans, first responders, and those in need.
“We are so excited that this is the fifth house that we are building in Georgia,” Gary Sinise Foundation Representative Chris Kuban said. “By the end of this year we will have 65 total houses across the country for severely injured veterans and first responders.”
It has been nearly one year since Hunter got that phone call. He has enjoyed every moment and is excited to see what happens next. He is ready to enjoy his new home and ready to share it with all involved.
“The idea of having a home that is suitable for my needs and is also a forever home for my kids to have stability means the world to us,” Hunter said.
To learn more about the R.I.S.E. program, visit www.garysinisefoundation.org/programs/rise.