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$6,000 gift remodels wounded Marine's home

James Byler sits in his home in Huntington,

James Byler sits in his home in Huntington, NY. (April 13, 2012) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

James Byler put an arm around his mother's shoulder as he struggled to climb the stairs to the front door of his parents' Huntington house.

It's the type of help the 26-year-old Marine first lieutenant, a double amputee, will need for just a few more months.

"I've fallen down the stairs a lot of times," he said Friday morning during a visit home. "I get frustrated. If the neighborhood kids didn't know every curse word before, they do now."

A few hours later, Byler moved a step closer toward readying his childhood home for his return. New York City firefighters presented him with a $6,000 check -- proceeds from an annual FDNY and NYPD boxing event held last November.

Bobby McGuire, who coaches the FDNY boxing team, said the fire department has donated to military charities since 9/11 through the "Battle of the Badges" event.

"We feel a special kinship with the Marines, who are actually going and fighting the terrorists," McGuire said.

Byler plans to move back home after rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Eighteen months ago, he lost both legs above the knee when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan.

Building Homes for Heroes, a Valley Stream group that renovates and retrofits homes for disabled veterans, broke ground last week at Byler's family home.

The $250,000 remodel, slated for completion by July Fourth, extends the garage back to an addition, allowing Byler to pull up in his specially equipped car and enter his new bedroom without having to contend with stairs.

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