It's moving day for Wade Mitcheltree and his family.
For the past several months, Beaverton's Four D Construction and its contractors have been hard at work building a "smart home" in Tigard as a gift for the retired sergeant first class, who lost both legs and part of an arm to an improvised explosive device that injured him while he was serving in Afghanistan in 2012. On Friday, Aug. 11 — seven months to the date since the groundbreaking ceremony, Chris Kuban noted — a dedication was held for the new house.
Kuban is a spokesman for the Gary Sinise Foundation, an organization founded by actor and musician Gary Sinise that — among other things — builds houses specially designed to meet the needs of disabled military veterans.
"At the Gary Sinise Foundation, we serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need," Kuban said.
The Mitcheltree home incorporates "smart" technology designed to allow Mitcheltree or his family members to remotely control nearly all parts of the house using an Apple iPad. By pressing buttons on the touchscreen of the tablet computer, Mitcheltree can turn lights on and off, check security cameras, and adjust the air conditioning. (He likes it cold.)
"It's life-changing," Mitcheltree said. "The same as it was life-changing when I got injured — nothing's ever going to be done the same way again."
David DeHarpport, president of Four D Construction, said he was contacted by the Gary Sinise Foundation about building a home for Mitcheltree and his family in Tigard. He worked with his brother Alan, a real estate agent, to find a suitable property and then got to work. He became emotional as he spoke about the project.
"It's just been very gratifying working with the family, and all of the support that all of our subcontractors have given on the job," David DeHarpport said, who wiped back tears before introducing Alan.
Alan DeHarpport listed some of the smart home's features, including walls designed to hold up in the event of a major earthquake and a backup power generator in case the electrical grid fails.
"All of us involved in the building of this specially adapted smart home can share in the blessing that we are able to look upon the work that was done on the Mitcheltree home with pride and with the knowledge that it is a true honor and a real gift to have had the opportunity to build this home to Wade's specifications, with attention to detail, and to give back to Wade and his family, who have sacrificed so much for our freedom and country," said Alan DeHarpport.
Kuban told Mitcheltree that the foundation's hope is "that this house will bring you is the independence and dignity that you deserve."
Mitcheltree and his wife Katie noted the "peace of mind" they expect the smart tech in the house to give them — no more getting up out of bed and putting on his prosthetic legs just to make sure someone remembered to lock the front door at night, Wade said; no more worrying about needing to make a bunch of meals for the rest of the family in advance before going away for a "girls' weekend," Katie said.
"I mean, it seems like a little thing," Wade Mitcheltree said. But it can take him several minutes to put on his prosthetics, he added: "So it's significant."
Scott Schaeperkotter, who is in charge of R.I.S.E. home construction as its director of operations, read a letter from Sinise, whom he said was unable to be at Friday's dedication ceremony.
"Too often we can take for granted the fact that our freedom and security is fought for, provided for and sacrificed for, through the service of a courageous few," Sinise wrote, adding, "As citizens who benefit from the sacrifices of these brave heroes, I believe it is our duty to support our military service members and their families before, during and after the battle, and that we do our best to ensure our returning defenders are welcomed back into their communities with the resources to begin a new life."
In a personal note to the Mitcheltree family at the end of the letter, Sinise wrote, "Wade, I wish I could be there today to personally thank you for all you've given and for all you have sacrificed on behalf of this nation, but down the road I look forward to one day visiting you all and taking a little private tour."
The Home Depot Foundation, The Marcus Foundation and Semper Fi Fund provided financial support for the project through the Gary Sinise Foundation.
By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times
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