As he stood before the podium Saturday in front of the dozens gathered next to his new driveway, Luis Remache, an Afghan war veteran who claimed to be a man of few words, grinned ear-to-ear and returned often to one word: thanks.
“Thank you for coming out on a special day for me, my wife, my family,” he said to the 60 guests. “I guess I have a lot of friends who I haven’t seen in a couple of years. All I can say is thank you,” he said.
It was an emotional homecoming for Remache, a retired Marine sergeant, and his wife, Cynthia, as they pulled up for the first time to the long, freshly-paved driveway of their home on Wading River Road in Manorville.
Nearly five years after a grenade attack in Afghanistan cost the former Marine his legs from the knees down, the couple — who are expecting their first child in September — moved into a 2,650-square-foot, four-bedroom ranch home.
The house, which comes mortgage-free, was constructed by Homes for Our Troops, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that builds homes nationwide for severely injured war vets. The house is equipped with widened doorways and hallways, a roll-in shower and handicapped-accessible amenities in the kitchen to make it easier for Remache, who uses prosthetic legs and a wheelchair, to move around in. The nonprofit covered the $430,000 construction costs with the help of local donors, supporters and corporate partners.
Remache, 31, the oldest of four children, was born in Ecuador and grew up in Corona, Queens. He enlisted in the armed forces when he was 19. During his last tour in Afghanistan, his battalion was caught in a deadly firefight on June 29, 2011. Remache also lost some of his fingers in the attack.
“I was unconscious for about 15 minutes [when it happened],” Remache said. In the past two years he has had multiple surgeries, several of them involving his back, and has been in and out of the hospital.
Remache’s father, Segundo, 52, who brought his family to New York from Ecuador in 1985, was a chef at Il Mulino in Roslyn when he heard the news.
“The hardest part for me was not being able to do anything,” said Segundo Remache, who said that in the months after his son’s injury he made the five-hour drive to The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, several times to be at his son’s bedside.
Cynthia Remache, who is a Marine, was overwhelmed by her new home. “We are so grateful for all the volunteers and for everyone who support our troops,” she said.
Aside from liking the area’s family-friendly atmosphere, Remache, who is taking cyber security classes at Stony Brook University, said he is looking forward to regaining his independence in his new home.
“It gives me more freedom to move around, and I can do it without going up and down the stairs” he said.
Lance Cpl. Matias Ferriera, 27, of Merrick, who also lost his lower legs while in Afghanistan, met Remache while both were rehabilitating at Walter Reed and was one of several old friends welcoming the couple home Saturday.
Ferriera noted that Remache’s injuries were much more severe than his own, and had one word to sum up his friend: “Inspirational.”