When U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jesse Cottle was serving on his fourth deployment in Afghanistan, a bomb detonated under him, blasting him into the air. The explosion left Cottle without legs below the knees.

On Wednesday, a decade after his last deployment, the Gary Sinise Foundation welcomed Cottle and his family into his new half-finished home in rural Eagle for the Walls of Honor event. Neighbors, family and community members were invited to write personal messages to Cottle and his family on the bare, wooden walls of the house during the event.

Once it is finished in November, the smart home will be specially equipped to help Cottle regain the independence that was taken away by his injury. The home will be built with “smart tech,” giving Cottle control the house’s features, such as lights and volumes, from his phone, said Scott Schaeperkoetter, director of operations for the foundation’s R.I.S.E. program.

“Those of us who are able bodied, we take for granted taking that first step out of bed … going into the bathroom and brushing our teeth,” said Chris Kuban, spokesman for the Gary Sinise Foundation at Wednesday’s event.

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The foundation is paying for Cottle’s home, along with the homes of 74 other veterans and first responders who were injured while serving across the nation, said Schaeperkoetter. Cottle’s house will be the first the foundation builds in Idaho.

Cottle and his wife, Kelly, have two young daughters, Isla and Grace.

“We’re so privileged to be part of a community and country that doesn’t forget its veterans,” Cottle said. “We’re beyond thankful.”

Patty Bowen is the Meridian Press reporter. You can reach her at pbowen@idahopress.com or follow her on Twitter @pattybowenMP.

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