NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Three years ago Tuesday, U.S. Army Sgt. Bryan Dilberian was almost mortally wounded by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
As CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock reported, three years later the triple amputee was looking forward to a future with greater independence, thanks to the group Building for America’s Bravest – and the New York Jets.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Staten Island Tuesday for a new home Dilberian, who lost both his legs and an arm in the July 1, 2011, attack. The attack also killed Dilberian’s best friend.
Dilberian got a hero’s welcome as he got off the back of his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and was handed his prosthetic leg. He was sporting a Jets jersey.
“Three years ago, I got hit today. I lost a couple of friends,” Dilberian said. “And It’s just – it’s like a rebirth.”
The 2,800-square foot, three bedroom “smart home” is being built by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which has made one of its missions to support veterans who have left the battlefield with severe injuries and help them transition back to everyday life. The foundation is building the home through Building America’s Bravest, a partnership between Tunnel to Towers and the Gary Sinise Foundation.
“Words can’t describe it,” Dilberian told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “It’s so overwhelming and emotional.”
The home in West Brighton, Staten Island will include a customized bathroom and several high-tech features, all operated by an iPad.
“It’s going to mean everything to me. I’m not going to be relying on nurses coming to the house. I don’t have to rely on just, people coming to help me,” Dilberian said. “I love to cook — now, this is going to give me the fundamentals to cook again.”
Tunnel to Towers Chairman and chief executive officer Frank Siller said the numerous features in the house will indeed help make Dilberian more independent.
“Bryan being a triple amputee, he’s not always going to be on his prosthetics. Many times when he’s in the comfort of his own home, he’ll be in a wheelchair,” he said. “So we make the kitchen cabinets adjustable so when he’s in his wheelchair, the cabinets come down, he can grab something from the cabinet and not ask somebody for a glass.”
And the New York Jets have also helped in a big way, giving $1 million to build two smart homes. Dilberian’s is one of them.
“Our freedom is not here by accident. It’s there because of our young men and women who serve,” said Jets owner Woody Johnson. “He’s got a challenge going forward. Hopefully, this is a little bit of an aid to him.”
Siller said the Jets’ involvement was priceless for the cause.
“We need this,” he said. “We need Woody Johnson’s help. We need others like Woody Johnson to help.”
Dilberian said Tuesday that he was overcome with emotion.
“I step on an IED, takes my friend’s life,” he told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “Here I am accepting a home, meanwhile someone else’s son is not home.”
Dilberian – originally from Brooklyn – was heavily involved in the planning for the house, picking the location and layout. He will also be there when the high-tech features are installed to make sure they meet his needs. The house should be finished next year.
For more information, visit tunnel2towers.org.
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