FALLBROOK, Calif. – August 24, 2015 — Marines are known for and take pride in the fact that they unwaveringly protect each other, against any and all odds. It’s called protecting our own. Marines will hold onto this as long as they live, and with the help of a grateful nation, amazing things can be accomplished.
In 2011 Staff Sgt. Jason Ross, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Ross was critically wounded and suffered major tissue and bone damage that cost him his legs. He was given less than a 2 percent chance of survival.
Ross says many people tell him he’s lucky to be alive, but he insists it’s more than luck.
“I don’t really count my blessings so much, but I just chalk it up to ‘I was too stubborn,’” said Ross. “I didn’t like the odds… and the reason why I didn’t punch out is because I’ve got two kids and I’ve got to be there for them and the other wounded warriors.”
After enduring nearly 240 surgeries, Ross beat those odds and has come to a new chapter in his life, moving on from recovery to living a normal life with his two little girls, Jackie, 4 and Stacie, 6.
Due to his injuries, simple things like reaching a cabinet or getting out of bed became a serious challenge; but a group of people dedicated to helping America’s veterans tackled Ross’ struggle with great force.
The Gary Sinise Foundation and their Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment program, in partnership with many generous contributors, built Ross and his family a house in Fallbrook, Calif., and formally dedicated it to the Ross family Aug. 21, 2015. Their new smart home is capable of turning these challenges into routine tasks for Ross.
Founded in 2011, The Gary Sinise Foundation and their partners are responsible for building at least 26 new homes for disabled veterans through their R.I.S.E. program. The foundation extends its attention to America’s active duty military, veterans, first responders and the families and caregivers that support them. They host several unique programs to help as many of the nation’s heroes as possible.
The new Ross family home features smart technology that allows someone to control things such as lighting, television or stereo, air conditioning and heat and even security cameras around the house all from a mobile tablet or smartphone. The cabinets are lowered and on a rail system, allowing Ross to reach and pull them down from his wheelchair. Ross loves to cook, so the microwave, refrigerator and stove are all placed conveniently within his reach.
“I like to cook and the biggest challenges I’ve had with other houses is that kitchens are not set up for someone in a wheelchair,” said Ross. “Here, in the kitchen I can move around and utilize the shelves.”
Jason’s mother Linda Ross said the new house has more than just kitchen features that make everyday life more comfortable for her son.
“He can’t regulate his body temperature normally anymore so we have to keep it very cold in here,” said Linda.
She went on to describe her granddaughters’ relationship with their father and how their new home will make that even stronger.
“They love their daddy,” said Linda. “Anytime they’re around daddy they are always excited and the added space in here will help Jason to do more with them.”
Ross said he’s glad to have a place he can finally settle down. His years in the Marine Corps caused the family to move from house to house every couple of years.
“I was in the Marines for 13 years, and on average I was moving around every four years. What this means for us is we get to break that trend,” said Ross. “It’s great for my kids because they’ve always had to share a room and they’re super excited to have their own rooms now.”
Jason said he’s excited to move forward with his new home and hopefully it will ease the burden his family has carried the past few years.
“It’s been a long road to get here but the journey’s over, I can finally take a step back and take a breather,” said Ross.
He said with relief that he has only one big task left at the moment: unpacking.