The Gary Sinise Foundation, with help from the Washington Redskins, on Tuesday broke ground on one of the organization’s newest “Smart Homes” for Capt. Luis Avila.
Luis Avila’s life changed on Dec. 27, 2011.
The Washington Redskins partnered with the Gary Sinise Foundation on Tuesday, February 9th, 2016, to engage in the groundbreaking of a new home for wounded veteran US Army Capt. Luis Avila.
Avila, a captain with the U.S. Army, was leading his team that day during one of his five combat tours, this time in Afghanistan, when his group was rocked by an improvised explosive device that had detonated nearby.
All told, three of Avila’s fellow soldiers lost their lives that day, while three others – including Avila – were left severely wounded.
Avila would cling to life for weeks. On Feb. 13, 2012, after almost seven weeks in a coma, he finally opened his eyes. With his wife, Claudia, and three sons by his side, Avila has since endured all kinds of traumatic medical experiences, such as the amputation of his left leg, two strokes and two heart attacks and a severe lack of oxygen that caused anoxic brain damage, all of which left him almost completely paralyzed.
Despite his misfortunes, Avila and his family remain in great spirits. He still fights harder than ever, but does so in the form of extensive therapy sessions at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and he has since received several honors and medals, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
But on Tuesday, Avila’s life changed once again.
The Gary Sinise Foundation, with help from the Washington Redskins and Redskins Salute, broke ground on one of the organization’s newest “Smart Homes,” via its R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program, which is being built specifically for Avila and his family’s needs.
As it turns out, Avila is a huge Redskins fan, and team President Bruce Allen was on hand Tuesday to present him with a custom burgundy No. 1 team jersey.
“You know, I've met some other veterans who the Gary Sinise Foundation has helped, and it does change their life. The great thing is he's going to see the love and camaraderie of the community coming out to support him,” Allen said of Avila. “His wife is a terrific lady, and it's going to give them a good place to live.”
But the surprises didn’t end there for Avila.
After being presented with the jersey, Avila jokingly requested season tickets.
“He came to some of our games, and he'll be coming to a lot more of them this year,” Allen said with a smile.
Allen commended the work of organizations like the Gary Sinise Foundation, which serves a similar purpose to programs like Redskins Salute, the team’s free, official military appreciation initiative that gives the community a platform for fans to serve, support, thank and connect with military service members and their families.
Sinise, an actor perhaps best known for his role as Lieutenant Dan in the award-winning film "Forrest Gump," launched his foundation in 2011 with a mission of supporting the country's defenders, veterans, first responders and their loved ones.
“It brings a smile to our face to show them our appreciation for their sacrifice,” Allen said. “The men and women of our armed forces are our heroes, and to watch the way they work and the teamwork involved in the military operation is inspiring to us, but when we bring them inside, they really feel the same energy from our players and our organization. It's just something we're very proud to be a part of.”