Former Staff Sgt. Jesse Cottle, along with his wife and their two daughters, were gifted a specially adapted smart home just outside Boise, Idaho, on Monday. Newly built, the home was specifically designed with Cottle's needs in mind.
Cottle entered the military in 2003, following in the footsteps of his father who was a Marine during the Vietnam War, according to the Gary Sinise Foundation. During his fourth deployment in 2009, Cottle was on a mission to clear improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, when he accidentally stepped on one and it detonated.
"I remember being blown into the air, but it was immediately like in the movies where everything is muted and quiet. That's pretty accurate, at least for me," Cottle said, adding that he entered a dream-like state. "Like...suddenly, it wasn't really a reality."
Cottle survived the blast. But in the aftermath, he underwent multiple surgeries and lost both legs. It was during his time in recovery that he met his now-wife Kelly Cottle. Together, they had their two daughters Grace and Isla, and began building a life together. But living in a home designed without his disabilities in mind made certain everyday tasks, like using the bathroom, difficult.
"The bathroom doorways are usually narrower than the regular doorways. So...if I'm in my wheelchair, I just kind of roll up...go down off [my wheelchair] and scoot on my butt...and get up on the toilet or get in the shower. I got so used to it," said Jesse Cottle, who now walks with prosthetic legs.
The family's new home was built as part of the Gary Sinise Foundation's Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E.) program, which, along with other donors like the Home Depot Foundation, aims to make life at home easier for veterans and first responders, and their families.
"Jesse Cottle is an incredible individual whose life was forever changed by the injuries he sustained during his service," said Shannon Gerber, executive director for the Home Depot Foundation, which has helped improve over 45,000 veterans' homes and facilities in the last decade. "The opportunity to support this deserving family and provide Jesse with a fully accessible and tailored smart home is what makes our work so meaningful."
The Cottles' new home is the result of a year-long community project undertaken not only by the various organizations donating to the family but also by family members, new neighbors and other veterans. For Kelly Cottle, it's a moment to finally settle down in a place that they can call home.
"To be able to raise our daughters in a home that's literally built by a community that loves their dad and our family and [who] always remind us how we can all lift each other up with our different struggles, everybody needs something at some point," Kelly Cottle said. "So to be able to...constantly be reminded of how much we have to still be grateful for, and to live in a country that makes you feel that way, it means a lot, it means more than we can say."