More than 100 supporters lined a wooded driveway, waving American flags and cheering as a car drove up and out stepped former U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Luis Remache with a disarming, bashful smile.
He held tightly to the hand of his wife, Cynthia, an administrative assistant and noncommissioned officer in the Marine Corps, as he moved on prosthetic legs and greeted fellow veterans.
The couple, who met two years ago when she helped him off a stretcher, were welcomed Saturday to the site of their future home off Wading River Road in Manorville that will be adapted to his needs as a double amputee.
The home's construction started Saturday with a groundbreaking hosted by Homes for Our Troops, the national nonprofit that has built more than 160 homes for seriously injured veterans.
"I didn't want to go to college. I found an easy way out," Remache joked about his decision to join the Marines in 2003. "But I found an easy way out of there, too, so now I got to go to school."
Remache, who lost his legs to grenade blasts in Afghanistan in 2011, said he has completed two semesters of online courses through the Colorado Technical University toward a degree in accounting.
His wife said the new home will allow them to move out of a place they have shared with his family in Queens -- and to build their own family.
The one-story home is expected to be finished within a year, and it will be mortgage-free and wheelchair accessible with 5-foot-wide hallways, said Chris Mitchell, the Homes for Our Troops community outreach supervisor who led the event. He said the estimated cost of the Remaches' home is $450,000.
"We live in a world full of danger, and the reason we enjoy our freedoms is because of people like Luis, who step forward to serve this country," said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, who attended the ceremony. "It is our time to pay back our troops."