By K. Janis Esch
The Southern Illinoisan
CARBONDALE — After retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Bullock lost his right arm and right leg to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2013, everyday tasks became a whole lot harder.
Transferring from his wheelchair into the shower, for example, proved perennially tricky. Some of the doorways in his home weren’t wide enough for him to wheel through.
“It’s the little things that everybody takes for granted, that you don’t think about, that make a huge difference,” said Bullock.
On June 29, the Gary Sinise Foundation held a dedication of a specially adapted, three-bedroom smart home built for Bullock, his wife, Jesica, and their son, Aidan.
The charity established by Gary Sinise — an actor best known for his portrayal of Lt. Dan in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump” — donates such homes to wounded veterans through its R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment).
Bullock wears a prosthetic leg but still regularly uses a wheelchair at home. His new house is equipped with “smart pads” on the walls that allow the user to control the security system and lights.
“So when I don’t have my leg on, if somebody does come to the door, I’m not worried about, ‘OK, who is it, I gotta get up.’ I can see who it is, I can let them in, I can control all the lights and everything without having to hop around,” Bullock said.
All of the home’s kitchen appliances can be easily and safely accessed from a wheelchair. The spacious shower has enough room for Bullock to wheel in and transfer using a bench and handles.
Representatives of the program’s donors — including the Marcus Foundation Inc., the Home Depot Foundation, Semper Fi Fund, and Larry and Phyllis Castrale — were present at the dedication ceremony alongside a number of building partners who donated materials.
“Getting ready for this week, I’m thinking a lot of us that are here are getting ready for the Fourth of July, celebrating independence and celebrating freedom,” said Gary Sinise Foundation spokesman Chris Kuban during the dedication ceremony. “But I think a lot of us that are able-bodied in this audience tend to take a lot for granted on a daily basis, what that means to us. This house will give you more independence. We know you’re independent now, but in 20, 30, 40 years — this is your forever home. We hope that it will make things a little bit easier.”
Bullock and his twin brother enlisted in the Army together after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He served two tours in Iraq, and after training for U.S. Army Special Forces, he was deployed to Afghanistan in October 2013.
One month later, Bullock ran over an IUD while driving an ATV on routine patrol. He lost his right arm above the elbow and his right leg above the knee and underwent a total of 30 surgeries.
Bullock, an award-winning bodybuilder who has garnered over 60,000 followers on Instagram, said his favorite room in the house is the gym facility.
“Fitness has just been a huge part of me. It was a huge part of my job in special forces, and I think that’s what’s helped make my recovery so successful, and so I’ve just continued to apply that training and that thought to it and I continue to do it,” Bullock said.
Bullock said he has been searching for commercial property and hopes to open a gym in Southern Illinois.
“It’s a way for me to get money back into the community and get people involved and living healthier lives,” Bullock said.