For the first time since Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens ended up paralyzed after serving in Iraq, he will be able to move freely through his home.
“He won’t be confined to the living room anymore,” his wife, Sharon Gittens, said Saturday at a ceremony where the national organization Homes for Our Troops presented a new home in Appling to the family.
Sharon Gittens said she had a “U-Haul truck in reserve” and would start moving as soon as the ceremony ended.
It’s been a long road for the Gittens family.
Gittens was in his third deployment when he suffered multiple concussive traumas while in Iraq from 2007 to 2008. After returning home, he continued to suffer headaches and other head-injury related symptoms before suffering an aneurism and stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to communicate.
Homes for Our Troops, which builds homes for severely injured veterans, initially started working on a home in the Knob Hill subdivision in Evans where the family rents. Before construction could begin, the neighborhood association issued a cease-and-desist order in June 2011 stating that the smaller home could reduce property values.
The family’s hopes for a new home were saved when an Appling man offered land. L.D. Waters, a Marine veteran of World War II and Korea, said he offered the family their choice of lots at the Farms at Greenbrier.
“I never thought I could offer someone something who deserves it as much as he does,” Waters said.
About 100 people watched Saturday as the couple and their four daughters, ages 11 to 21, accepted the keys to the new home.
The 3,500-square-foot brick home sits on five acres and has four bedrooms and two baths. It is fully handicapped accessible, with push-to-open doors and a ceiling lift track that can help carry Gittens from his bedroom throughout the bathroom. Wide hallways and an open floor plan give Gittens space to move.
Members of Friendship Baptist Church, which sits next door to the new home, were at the ceremony to welcome the family.
“It’s a blessing to us everyday we come to worship and we can look out our back door and see this miracle,” said the Rev. Philip Dunston Jr.
The home marks the 114th construction project for Homes for Our Troops in eight years. Organization President Ken Preston said he didn’t imagine Gittens as being the type to want charity.
“As I see it, this isn’t charity. This is a gift,” he said.