Wounded Airman receives new home
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) --
The morning alarm wakes him. He gets dressed, brushes his teeth and gets his 2-year-old son ready for the day.
He does this with no legs, and only one arm.
On Sept. 27, 2011, Master Sgt. Joseph Deslauriers, then an explosive ordnance device technician, made his way through Afghanistan in a Humvee, a route he traveled many times.
"We were doing route clearance when we encountered several improvised explosive devices," said Deslauriers, who was on his fourth combat deployment. "One vehicle got hit and then another vehicle got hit, and there were just guys everywhere trying to help each other out. Finally someone just said 'Stop.'"
That's when Deslauriers said he decided to step out of his vehicle.
"We started doing our investigation, making sure we could move the vehicles around just by using mine detectors," Deslauriers said. "Once I was satisfied, I grabbed my equipment bag and walked the same path that I had walked three or four times before, and then bam -- that's when I stepped on it."
In that instant, Deslauriers said his life was changed forever. He returned home as a triple amputee.
Deslauriers spent two years in and out of the hospital undergoing surgeries, participating in intense physical therapy, and learning how to live his life with only one arm.
"It takes a long time to get to this point," said Deslauriers, who now works at the Air Force Special Operations Command Headquarters as the EOD program manager. "As an EOD tech, we plan for the ultimate sacrifice but not for this. My wife and I had a funeral for my legs and we just cried and went through that grieving period."
Despite all these challenges, Deslauriers has remained positive and determined.
"I'm able to get around with the help of assisted devices such as my power chair and my van with a ramp," Deslauriers said. "My wife, Lisa, has run errands and left me with my son, Cameron, and I can do it. It's tough and he does test me on my capabilities, but I can do it."
Now he'll have even more assistance; the Building Homes for Heroes Foundation broke ground Nov. 18 on a new home for him and his family complete with a work out area, a therapy pool and enough space for him to move around freely.
"This is going to lift a huge weight off my shoulders, especially since I may be medically retiring in the future," said Deslauriers, who currently lives in a small apartment. "In my apartment, I wreck into things and I scratch up a lot of things. I can't wait to just have a place to call my own."
The Building Homes for Heroes organization a non-profit that was founded in 2006 by Andy Pujoh.
"The Deslauriers are such a wonderful and beautiful family," said Pujoh, whose organization has donated 2,006 homes and has more than 3,500 volunteers. "Their hearts are filled with warmth, they're so humble and so appreciative. They have already shared that they want to pay it forward. For him, the courage and character he has is inspiring to everyone."