A Tucson native and former Green Beret who lost both his legs in Afghanistan knows what it’s like to get back on his feet after a fall. What this ex-soldier might not have expected after returning home, though, was an incredibly helping hand from a famous celebrity.
Sergeant 1st Class Caleb Brewer enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 2005 and joined the Green Berets in 2012. During a deployment to Afghanistan in 2015, he was severely injured in combat, and both of his legs were severed. He suffered from infections, blood clots, and a traumatic brain injury. Yet, despite all his injuries, the soldier survived. Brewer retired in 2016.
The former soldier, now 31, has returned to Tucson, where he faced all of the daunting challenges of living without his legs. Meanwhile, a well-known supporter of military families, actor Gary Sinise, took notice and saw to it that adequate housing would not be a concern for Brewer.
The Hollywood star, famous for his character Lt. Dan of “Forrest Gump,” has been a supporter for war vets since the 70s. After the September 11th attacks in New York, his commitment increased; he founded the Gary Sinise Foundation to support military families in 2011.
After Sinise learned about Brewer’s situation, the foundation contacted Brewer to lend a helping hand. They encouraged him to apply to the RISE (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program, whose aim is to build specially adapted smart homes, as well as adapted vehicles, for wounded vets.
Before Brewer and his family knew it, they had been approved for a new smart home in Tucson, fully outfitted with special modifications to assist Brewer in coping with his disability. The home was completed on Feb. 6, 2019.
The adapted home featured smartphone-controlled functions: whether it be checking to see who’s at the door, adjusting the volume of the stereo, or opening the blinds, a simple handheld device would be all it took. Also installed were wheelchair-friendly tilted mirrors and pocket doors.
“It’s incredibly overwhelming in a good way,” said Brewer. “It doesn’t feel real. I never would’ve expected it in a million years.” Brewer, his wife, Ashley, and their two daughters Emily and Evelyn would face fewer worries thanks to the Sinise Foundation’s firm commitment.
Brewer has made progress by leaps and bounds in his rehabilitation efforts. He learned how to walk using prosthetics four months after his injury. Today, he has a specialized workout room to assist in his physical therapy; he trains for his own health, and he helps other disabled men and women rebuild their bodies and their confidence.
The foundation stated in a press release: “A specially adapted smart home will greatly increase his ability to perform necessary daily functions.”
The Gary Sinise Foundation has also initiated other projects to help military vets and their families. The Foundation’s Relief and Resiliency program has been in the media. Their program called the Snowball Express helps military families who have lost loved ones by providing therapeutic retreats to exciting places for kids and surviving parents. Sinise has also brought over 1,000 children of fallen soldiers to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.