ABILENE, Texas - A wounded U.S. Army veteran and his family are going to be receiving a new home Thursday after a groundbreaking ceremony in Wylie.
The Texas Sentinels Foundation hopes to have the home completed in time for Christmas for Staff Sergeant Michael Burns, his wife, Robyn, and their four children. The foundation provides homes to wounded soldiers in need.
"It's very humbling and it's overwhelming," said Burns. "We just feel extremely blessed."
Burns served 10 years with 3 deployments to Iraq. He didn't join the army until he was 32. He was a mortgage banker at the time and after 9/11, felt the need to serve and keep the violence out of the states. He completed 17 weeks of basic training and was stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas with his wife and two daughters at the time. He was deployed less than three weeks after their family moved to Kansas.
Burns was stationed at the Forward Operating Base in Kalsu, which is southwest of Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was responsible for locating and clearing I.E.D's. During his first deployment, Burns was injured while in the gunners turret of a HUMVEE. A low-laying power line caught him across the neck and he was electrocuted with 220 volts of electricity. He sustained a hairline fracture to his neck, minor burns to his head and a back injury. He also now has problems with his vision related to these injuries.
In November of 2003, during a rocket and mortar attack on Burns' base, his left leg was hit with shrapnel from a rocket that landed 15 meters away from him. Burns said he knew he had suffered injuries to his leg, neck and back and it was painful. But, Burns completed his deployment and returned home.
Burns was medically retired as a staff sergeant. He has had 6 surgeries already to his leg and knee. He will have another surgery within the next three months. If this surgery doesn't work, he will have to have his leg amputated. Burns has spent several years receiving additional treatment for his traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Burns said this new home will be a tremendous blessing as their previous home was two stories. He said he wasn't able to go upstairs often, limiting his interaction with his family.
"On my bad days, I was either confined to my bedroom or my living room, which was on the same floor," said Burns.
Burns said with the new home, it will be ADA compliant, allowing him to move around more easily and spend more time with his family.
"It's going to improve the way that we live greatly," said Burns.
His wife, Robyn, is glad her husband will be able to move around much easier in their new home.
"I can't tell you what it means to just have a home that my husband can get up and go kiss his children goodnight," said Robyn. "That, to me, means more than anything that anybody will ever be able to imagine."
Sgt. Burns said the community has supported them immensely and their children already have plenty of friends.
"The way this community is and has been with welcoming us and making us feel at home," said Burns. "The amount of love and support we've gotten from the community has just been overwhelming."
The home will be fully furnished and have a landscaped yard. The Burns family will also be provided three months of groceries.
The Texas Sentinels Foundation is still working to raise additional funds and supplies to complete the home. They will be having a golf tournament to raise some of the funds on September 19. For more information, you can go to their website here.