The world often forgets about all of the veterans and troops that risk their lives to defend their nation. It’s easy to praise them after a success, and it’s even simpler to fail to give them enough credit for the difficulties they face. However, one organization, the Gary Sinise Foundation, chooses not to rewrite their deeds and continue to assist them after the conflict is done.
Many will lose limbs, get catastrophic injuries, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and, in the worst-case scenario, die. Gary Sinise, the nonprofit organization’s creator, is completely dedicated to ensuring that army veterans, troops, and defenders receive the care and attention they require after battle.
The group has been around for nearly four decades and has helped thousands of veterans and their families. It does not appear to be slowing down any time soon. Sinise’s group was inspired by family members who served in the military, but so was his character as Lt. Dan in “Forrest Gump.” Sinise stated that the role transformed his life and inspired him to establish the Lt. Dan Band, which plays for active-duty military personnel overseas.
After losing both legs in an IED blast in 2010, one worthy marine, Jonathon Blank, received a custom-built house from the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2019. He also experienced head and upper body damage and continues to suffer from sleeplessness, headaches, and chronic discomfort. Blank’s house is entirely accessible and designed to meet all of his needs. Continue reading to find out more about Blank and what this house means to him.
Jonathon Blank and his close buddy Jonathon Nelson share a special friendship that can only be formed while serving in the United States Marine Corps. After serving in the same special operations unit in Afghanistan over 10 years ago, the two veterans became friends. Nelson was present when Blank lost his legs in the blast.
That hasn’t prevented the couple from trekking together. Nelson planned to take Blank to the summit of Mount Timpanogos one day while driving by it in Utah. “I felt getting into the saddle would be something incredible for him to experience,” Nelson remarked.
It’s hardly surprising that the two desire to go on this trip together. While fighting for their nation, the two exchanged a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.
Nelson carried Blank 14.3 kilometers to the summit of Mount Timpanogos. Given that Blank weighed 135 pounds and the trek included an elevation increase of 4,500 feet, this was quite a physical achievement.
Nate Larid and Phil Casper, two other hikers, were coming down the same route when they noticed Nelson and Blank. They were astounded. “You see that desire for them to achieve what they do, and you want to do that for yourself and your family,” Laird said.
Blank recognized how drastically his life had altered when he returned home following his accident. Getting up and down the stairs in his house had become considerably more difficult. “Sometimes it simply gets boring. “The world is not designed for disabled people,” Blank stated. “It’s just a painful fact that I’ve had to live with every day since I was injured.”
“It’s such a great gift,” Blank said, adding that the news made several of his Marine pals cry. “Even some of those strong guys were fairly upset when they heard out about this.”
Blank was also able to participate on design ideas for the house as it was being built. “Honestly, I didn’t realize I’d be so engaged with the building’s planning and layout,” he remarked.
Brittney Harris, Blank’s fiancée, also came out about how much the house would affect his life before it was finished. She stated:
“He’s always dragging and carrying his belongings up and down the stairs. Nothing slows him down, but just seeing cupboards he can pull down and reach instead of having to hop up there would make such a significant difference for him.”
Blank’s home is outfitted with lighting control and other technological equipment. Advanced Integrated Systems co-owner Blaine Christensen stated:
“We’re delighted to have helped present Sergeant Blank with a house that will permanently change the course of his life; it’s a fantastic gift from the American people and businesses like Legrand. He appreciates the fantastic facilities his new house affords and how it allows him to accomplish things that haven’t always been simple for him.”
Nothing seemed to have stopped Blank from enjoying his greatest life. He has demonstrated that he can overcome any adversity that is thrown his him. The veteran shared a video on Instagram of himself demonstrating his athletic talents while smiling broadly. The caption of the image was peppered with motivational hashtags like “#neverstop #sendingit #nolegs #noquitting.”
Fortunately, it appears that Blank has plenty of room to walk about in his home. In November 2020, Jorgenson Builders shared a touching photo on Facebook of Blank standing in front of his home, which was built with the help of the Gary Sinise Foundation. The caption stated:
We’re delighted to have had the opportunity to design a custom adapted smart house for the @GarySiniseFoundation’s R.I.S.E program, which benefits (sic) USMC SSgt Jonathon Blank. What an incredible program to be a part of! On Veterans Day, we were able to hand over the house to Jonathon. We hope he enjoys his new home and wish him a warm welcome to Midway!
R.I.S.E. stands for Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment, according to the Gary Sinise Foundation website. The concept focuses on offering house improvements to “severely wounded heroes” in order to develop smart homes.
While Sinise rose to prominence as an actor in a number of plays, films, and television shows, his legacy will undoubtedly be as a humanitarian. He serves on the advisory board of Hope For the Warriors, a non-profit organization committed to providing non-medical treatment to combat-wounded military personnel and their families, in addition to his work with the Gary Sinise Foundation. Sinise has received multiple awards for his services in assisting injured soldiers, including the Sylvanus Thayer Award in 2015 and a Location Managers Guild award in 2020.