Historic City News reporters learned from Florida Veterans Programs and Projects, Inc., representative Gary Bruce, that at 1:00 p.m. today, the keys to 254 Honey Branch Lane in St Augustine were officially turned over to USMC Corporal Tyler Southern and his wife Ashley.
Southern was on his second deployment when, on May 5, 2010, he stepped on a 10 pound, pressure plated improvised explosive device while searching for insurgents inside a walled compound in Musa Qala, Afghanistan.
The explosion was so severe; Southern has no recollection of what happened prior to the blast. He lost both of his legs, above the knees, his right arm, above the elbow, and shattered his left arm and hand.
Southern received lifesaving measures at the scene, was transported by MEDEVAC to Camp Bastion Hospital in Afghanistan, and then was airlifted to Landstuhl, Germany. For nearly two weeks, Southern remained in a coma at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. He spent another three months recovering there before transferring to Walter Reed; where he continues to receive therapy.
Homes for Our Troops, along with local contractors, building supply companies, engineers, and volunteers designed, built and donated a beautiful home that is specially adapted to meet the needs of the wounded Marine and his family.
Services Donated to this project included:
General Contractor Geotechnical Engineering Dream Finders Homes Universal Engineering Sciences 1500 Calming Island, FL. 32003 Jeff Pruitt, PE 904-375-9284 5561 Florida Mining Boulevard South Jacksonville, Florida 32257 Land Clearing and Trucking (904) 296-0757 office Smith Trucking Company Inc. Thad Guerra Landscape Architect 10875 Old Dixie Hwy Jordan P. Limburg, RLA Ponte Vedra, Fl 32081 13715 Richmond Park Drive North 904-940-1226 Suite 907 Jacksonville, FL 32224 Lumber, Truss, Windows and Doors Siding 904.223.7298 Builders First Source 6550 Roosevelt Blvd. Surveying Jacksonville, FL. 32244 Bradshaw-Niles Associates, Inc. 904-772-6100 Dale Bradshaw 280 Business Park Circle, Suite 410 Plumbing St. Augustine, Fl 32095 Gene Morton’s Plumbing 904-829-2591 170 College Drive Orange Park, FL 32065 Septic System Installer 904-272-4672 Moores Sand and Septic Johnny Moore Framing Labor 4455-B Manucy Road S.A Robinson Construction St.Augustine 32084 200 Commercial Drive Suite 1 St Augustine, FL 32092 Roofing Materials 904-584-1800 ABC Roofing Supply 5130 Phillips Hwy Civil Engineer Jacksonville, FL 32207 P&A Consulting Engineers, Inc. 904-730-2770 Michael D. Pullium CFEA, LEP 2808 N. Fifth Street, Suite 501 Electrical St. Augustine, Fl. 32084 Hyatt Electrical (904) 824-3755 54246 Heron Rd Callahan, FL 32011 904-879-4242
John Gonsalves, president and founder of Homes for Our Troops, a not for profit organization that has built over 100 homes for wounded veterans, served as the emcee, introducing many of the people who helped to make the project possible.
Southern thanked Homes for Our Troops saying, “you will never know how much this means to me and my family. Your hearts are in a great place.”
Veterans and active military formed a large part of the audience. Hundreds of motorcycles, including members of Rolling Thunder and the Patriot Guard Riders, formed a convoy to the home.
A large tent was setup to accommodate seating for those attending the key ceremony; however, it proved to be far too small. Bruce reported that the crowd filled the tent and most of the front yard.
Like Tyler, most of his family has served, or is serving, in the armed forces. His father Joe was in the Navy. One of his brothers, Joe, is in the Navy and his brother Jake is in the Army.
It was an emotional event, Bruce told Historic City News. It was often punctuated by the smile and laughter of Southern as he showed the strong spirit that inspires those around him.
Gonsalves concluded the ceremony by handing the key to the house to the Southerns; who promptly unlocked the front door and took a tour, inviting all those attending to see their new home.
“This gift of a specially adapted home is monumental to me and my future, and my family’s future,” Southern said. “This home will give me the freedom to go anywhere or do anything in my own home without any assistance, making my injuries a distant thought.”
The spacious home sits on a four-acre lot, providing room enough so that when the Southerns settle in, they do not ever have to think about moving. Corporal Southern says he is looking forward to beginning a new life in a home that will allow him the freedom and independence he fought to preserve for our country.
“This unimaginable gift gives my family the freedom to live without the constant worry of whether or not I will be okay on my own,” Southern told his guests. “I cannot express in words how much I appreciate this gift.”