By Sgt. Jacob Harrer, 1st Marine Division
TEMECULA, Calif. – On the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks, military supporters gathered to give back to one of the nation’s wounded warriors who took the fight back to the enemy. Nearly two years ago, Juan Dominguez lost both legs and one arm in an improvised explosive device blast.
While he has lost much of his mobility, he gained a new opportunity to raise a family in a community he loves thanks to a brand new “smart home” donated to him by the efforts of the Gary Sinise Foundation, the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation and Ned Wallace, a philanthropist who donated $450,000 to help construct the home. Gary Sinise, along with foundation leaders, local residents and Temecula mayor Chuck Washington, unveiled the home during a ceremony Tuesday.
Combat Veteran who sacrificed for his country
In 2010, Juan Dominguez patrolled down the farmlands and roads of the heavily-contested Sangin district of Afghanistan, where the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, battled insurgent forces for control of the region. Marines waded through canals in order to avoid improvised explosive devices. Insurgents observed the patrols and began placing IEDs into canals.
On October 23, 2010, Dominguez stepped into a canal and triggered an IED. The blast severely injured him, severing his legs and right arm. He was transported back to the United States.
Sergeant Ramon C. Casias, one of Dominguez’s first noncommissioned officers, recalled hearing about the event during a nightly meeting with the battalion commander on a patrol base in Sangin.
“It was pretty rough to hear it in a meeting because there were so many casualties that happened around that time,” recalled Casias, a 25-year-old native of Aurora, Colo. “He wasn’t the only one that was injured that day. It makes me real sad because you want to be there with your boys and you can’t be there, and you want to do everything you can. You put so much heart and soul into training them, and you can’t be there with them. It’s real rough.”
Casias did not have a chance to visit Dominguez until about nine months later, where he discovered Dominguez’s devastating condition. Even though Dominguez was disabled, Casias was happy to see him.
“Regardless of what happens, he’s still your brother,” added Casias, now a squad leader with Kilo Co., 3rd Bn., 5th Marines. “He’s alive and that’s all that matters. His condition didn’t matter to me. He’s still my little critter.”
A New Life
Last year, the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation teamed up with the Gary Sinise Foundation to raise funds and construct a smart home using the latest technology to accommodate Dominguez’s physical handicaps. Tunnels to Towers helps triple and quadruple amputee combat veterans. The foundation provides homes equipped to assist disabled veterans with everyday functions.
The Temecula home can facilitate just about anything Dominguez could need using the touch of an iPad. He can raise and lower blinds, lock doors, and control lighting. An elevator helps him up the stairs, and even the toilet lids raise themselves automatically, said Danielle Tocco, the director of communications for Standard Pacific Homes, an Irvine, Calif.-based home developer.
With his new home in the community he chose, Dominguez, a native of Deming, N.M., started a new chapter in his life after leaving the Marine Corps as a corporal. He currently lives with his newlywed wife, Alexis, and daughter, Victoria. His standard of living has greatly improved since he was injured while serving as an infantryman in Afghanistan.
“Had September 11th never happened … Juan Dominguez never would have been in harm’s way,” said John Hodges, the director of operations for the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation. “By giving him this house, we really feel in many ways we are returning his life back to him so he can move on and realize the rest of his dreams and expectations that he has for himself, his wife, and for his future family.”
Dominguez said he appreciated all of the support he and his family received from his new community and the rest of the nation.
“We all know we don’t do this job for recognition, but it’s nice to know that people still back us and that we are fighting for something,” explained Dominguez. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get this much support. It’s been a little overwhelming. My family is taking it in stride and are excited for this new house. I love this country.”
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