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Wounded vet living in new ‘smart home’

By KEN-YON HARDY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 13, 2016

WALDORF, Md. — He has moved his family seven times in six years, but retired Army Cpl. David Bixler hopes this will be his permanent home.

“I’m kind of having a hard time for everything to sink in,” the father of three said Tuesday, moments after receiving a 2,800-square-foot “smart home,” courtesy of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. “It’s not real yet.

“It’s one of those things where you keep wanting it to happen, and when it finally happens, I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know what to think. It’s beautiful.”

In 2010, during a firefight in heavily-mined farmland of Afghanistan’s Arghandab River Valley, Bixler saw that an Afghan soldier was about to step into uncleared ground. He pulled the soldier back, but in doing so he lost his balance and stepped on an improvised explosive device.

The Afghan soldier escaped with only minor injuries, but Bixler suffered a spinal injury and serious shrapnel wounds and lost both legs. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions.

“My spine had to be reconnected and fixed. My whole rear end had to be reassembled,” Bixler said during an April 2011 interview at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

“I lost count of how many surgeries I had ... For a while there, I was spending 18 hours a day in surgery,” he said. “One after another after another. First they fixed my insides, and then they worked on my legs.”

Bixler was chosen by the Siller foundation as a part of its “Building for America’s Bravest” program, which constructs specially adapted, customized “smart homes” (52 so far) for injured servicemembers. Many of the energy-efficient, easily accessible home’s important features can be controlled on an iPad.

Even in his excitement at receiving a new home, Bixler said he can never forget the sacrifices of others. “To the other veterans, I’d like to say that this is a tribute to basically prove their sacrifices weren’t for nothing,” he said.

“To the American public, this isn’t free. This was paid for by ... guys that gave their lives to keep the mission going forward. And they have encouraged me to keep the mission going forward.”

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation honors New York firefighter Stephen Siller, who died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

hardy.kenyon@stripes.com
Twitter: @kenyonhardy
 

A flag that flew over HQ Resolute Support in Kabul, Afghanistan is presented to retired Army Cpl. David Bixler during a ceremony by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation in front of his new home in Waldorf, MD.
KEN-YON HARDY/STARS AND STRIPES

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