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Gary Sinise Foundation is building a new smart home for double amputee Marine vet

Gary Sinise explains why he started the Gary Sinise Foundation during a meeting with military and local media at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., April 29, 2016. (Master Sgt. Jeff Walston/U.S. Air Force)
July 14, 2019

A disabled Marine veteran and his family will soon receive a debt-free home in Idaho courtesy of The Gary Sinise Foundation.

Marine Staff Sgt. Jesse Cottle who lost his legs from an IED attack during his fourth deployment in 2009, is one of the latest upcoming recipients of a specially adapted smart home through the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program, KREM 2 News reported.

“Like many who have come before him in service to our country, USMC SSgt Jesse Cottle, fought and sacrificed to give us all the precious gift of freedom,” Elizabeth Fields, COO of the Gary Sinise Foundation, said in an emailed statement to American Military News. “Our hope is that his new custom smart home designed and built especially for Jesse and his family, will act as a daily reminder of our thanks from a grateful nation.”

The Gary Sinise Foundation hosted a “Walls of Honor” event for the Cottles last month to mark the halfway point in the project. A full dedication ceremony is scheduled to take place this Veterans Day, November 11.

Scott Schaeperkoetter, the director of operations for the R.I.S.E. program, said of the Walls of Honor event last month, “It’s a day when we invite community, donors, friends and family to come in and write words of encouragement, words of thanks, on the walls before we drywall the home.”

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Cottle and his wife became engrained in the hearts of Americans in 2013 when a photo of Cottle’s wife, Kelly, carrying Jesse on her back was posted on Facebook and went viral. Kelly Cottle said at the time, “That’s how we get around sometimes, at the beach, or we do it all the time, it’s just pretty normal for us.”

Much to their surprise, the Cottles gained a lot of media attention from across the world. The photographer, Sarah Ledford of Shutterhappy Photography said, “America just fell in love with Jesse and Kelly.”

Kelly Cottle said, “Yeah, that was sort of a crazy period of time. We did the story, and it aired and that Monday morning we just started getting calls from all sorts of people from all over the place. We just thought if we share our story, if it could encourage anybody, it was worth it.”

A lot has changed for the Cottles since 2013. Jesse Cottle is now a physician’s assistant at Saint Alphonsus, the couple has two daughters, Grace and Isla, and the Gary Sinise Foundation is building them a new smart home in Eagle, free and clear, which they will receive on Veterans Day this year.

“We didn’t even realize that we would be eligible for his program,” Kelly Cottle said.

Sinise had called Jesse and Kelly Cottle in 2017 and told them they would be the recipients of a new home.

Jesse Cottle said, “So, when Gary called us on my cell phone, which was surreal by itself, we put him on speaker phone. He just said that they’d be honored to have us in the program and to build us a forever home. Then your kind of speechless and don’t know what to say. What do you even say to that?”

Jesse Cottle said, “It means so much, where do I start? In addition to just having spacious hallways and wide enough doorways for my wheelchair, it’s a smart home. It’s very cleverly designed to make it easier in my wheelchair and in my prosthetics as well.”

“It makes a lot of stresses about the future melt away, and it also kind of feels like maybe you’re dreaming. We’re extra honored to be the first recipients in Idaho, we’re just really excited about bringing the Gary Sinise Foundation, and more awareness to Idaho,” Jesse Cottle added.

“It means so much to us, and I see him every day what he struggles with, and he has had such a good attitude about it. ” I feel like he’s earned it for us, and I know it’s hard for him to feel that way. I think this is just going to change his life and he deserves it. To be able to see him move freely around his home and be proud of where he is and proud of what he’s earned for his family, is going to mean so much to me,” Kelly Cottle said.

Schaeperkoetter said, “They are grateful, they are so grateful. Jesse doesn’t think that he deserves this home, we think that he does. Just that never give up attitude of he wants to continue his life, he’s missing his legs, but he’s not letting that get in the way.”