Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Darryl Wallace and his family have a brand new home in Harlem, thanks to the generosity of a lot of people.
Sgt. Wallace's wife, Tiffany, accompanied by the couple's 5-year-old son, Chase, was presented the keys and the deed to their new home after special ribbon-cutting ceremonies Friday morning. She accepted them from Tom Benoit, vice president and chief financial officer of Homes for Our Troops.
"We feel so blessed to have a new home to call ours," said Mrs. Wallace, whose husband was injured in Afghanistan War in June 2007. Sgt. Wallace lost both of his legs and suffered other injuries when an improvised explosive device went off underneath his broken-down armored vehicle. Three other soldiers inside with him managed to escape serious injuries.
"I'm excited that we have a new house where Darryl can get around well and not have to worry about obstacles in his way," Mrs. Wallace added.
The home was built by Chris Evans, a general contractor in Evans. He and his daughter, Melissa, worked many hours on the project.
"I'm very proud to have worked with Homes for Our Troops," Mr. Evans said.
Miss Evans added, "We're grateful to have been part of this project. We'd like to thank all of the volunteer soldiers from Fort Gordon and everyone else who had a part in making this come together."
Mrs. Wallace said her husband, a graduate of Thomson High School, was unable to attend the ceremony in the Ashley Place Subdivision because of treatment that he is undergoing at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Tampa, Fla.
From his hospital room in Tampa, Mr. Wallace spoke to those attending the ceremony via recorded video.
"Hey everybody at home," he said. "I would like to thank Homes for Our Troops and my family for sticking by me. I just want to say thank you and I'm sorry I couldn't be there."
He is expected to be released from the hospital in about two months.
"This shows how Harlem has always opened its heart and arms to people," Mayor Bobby Culpepper said. "We're grateful that Darryl is about to come back to Harlem to live. He lived here for a while as a little boy and now he's coming back home."
As for what neighbors, friends, volunteers from Fort Gordon, members of the American Legion Riders of Post 192 and the Patriot Guard Riders have done to assist the Wallace family, Mr. Culpepper said, "That's the part that makes America great. We're all doing what we should be doing -- just like Darryl did for all of us. He sacrificed. He lived up to his responsibilities and we, as Americans, should live up to our responsibilities, too."
Cindy Guthrie, whose husband, George, heads the American Legion Riders and Patriot Guard Riders in Augusta, echoed the mayor's comments.
"I think of this project as paying back a little something to Darryl for the price he paid for all of us," she said. "This is a small thing compared to what all he's been through and is still having to endure."