Wounded vet gains some freedom with new house

Posted at 7:04 PM, Jan 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-05 22:04:00-05

Nick Kimmel had two paths to pick from. He could have taken a baseball scholarship, but he decided to join the Marine Corps.

On December 1, 2011, Sgt. Kimmel was building a patrol base just south of the Kajaki Dam. He jumped off a tram loader and was blasted by a 40 pound I.E.D.  He came to four days later in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. His two legs and one arm were gone.

He lost a sense of his freedom.

"When you have to rely on someone all the time it gets cumbersome," Sgt. Kimmel said. "I almost feel like I'm burdening them."

Simple things like getting a drink of water or moving around his home were harding.

"I always leave my blinds closed because it's a pain to open and close them, so my house is always so dark," he added.

He has been so frustrated, and at times he screamed out loud.

"My wheelchair is like three feet wide," he explained. "I'm always banging into walls [and] smacking my hand on door jams. It hurts."

The Gary Sinise Foundation decided it was time for a change and built him a specially-adapted custom Smart Home through its R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program in Fallbrook.

"It's pretty fantastic," Kimmel said.

With the touch of an iPad, Kimmel can do things like turn out the lights.

"The blinds are all automated with the iPad," Kimmel explained. "This house is so light.

"They always talk about a forever home, and this is for sure a forever home."

It may make the days a little less dark. But, we had to ask if it was all worth it.

"If you rewind the clock 10 years and they said, 'hey, you're going to lose your legs on this day', I still would have joined the Marine Corps," he said.

He said it is because of the camaraderie, which runs deeper than a unit, a branch or even a war.

When asked why he had tears in his eyes, he said this: "Just gratitude I guess."

Because he did not just get a home: he got his freedom back.