NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A soldier’s dream to visit New York has finally come true. After being wounded in combat and having to learn to walk and talk again, the Purple Heart recipient will soon move into his own home in the Bronx.
The walls may be barren and the bathroom gutted, but hammer by hammer the Harding Park house is becoming a home.
“I’m just very happy, so happy,” Semisi Tokailagi said.
That feeling hasn’t been easy for Tokailagi and his wife to come by. Back in 2011 a mortar attack in Afghanistan left the Army specialist with a traumatic brain injury. Once he emerged from a month-long coma, the 27-year-old had to learn how to talk, read and walk again. Aside from the brain injury, Semisi also suffered partial blindness and paralysis.
But soon, he’ll be walking into his own home.
“Glad to start over and New York is where we will be calling home from now on,” Tokailagi said.
The Bronx home being given to Tokailagi by the Military Warriors Support Foundation and Bank of America is all part of a program that donates foreclosed homes to wounded heroes, mortgage-free, easing a hard transition.
“Ever since the injury it’s always been uncertain. Where are we going next? What are we going to do? How are we going to pay for this? How we going to get this?” said Miriama Tukana, Tokailagi’s wife.
“They’re put back in civilian life when they didn’t expect to and a lot of them with traumatic brain injury or an amputation, it’s not coming back like they normally would come back,” said Sally Farrell of the Military Warriors Support Foundation.
It’s a sacrifice not lost on Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was on hand to welcome Tokailagi. Girardi’s father was a military veteran.
“I’d just like to say thank you for your personal sacrifice,” an emotional Girardi said, “And allowing us to do what we do freely.”
Neighbors welcomed Tokailagi with decorations. Bank of America volunteers and a contractor will now renovate the home. Tokailagi and his wife said they are looking forward to starting a family.
“It’s great seeing that kind of support given back to us, and I’m just thankful,” Tokailagi said.
Once all of the renovation work is complete the couple should be able to move into the home by the end of summer. They’ll get the deed to the home after three years.
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