A foundation that assists injured combat veterans and the families of first responders killed while on duty broke ground in Melville Monday on a new home for an Iraq/Afghanistan war veteran who lost both legs in a 2008 Iraq roadside explosion.
Christopher Levi, whose legs were severed at mid-thigh during the attack in Baghdad on St. Patrick’s Day 2008, will be the beneficiary of the first home built on Long Island by the organization — the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation — since its inception in late 2001.
The house — a three-bedroom, two and a half-bath ranch — will be built south of the Long Island Expressway. Designed around a central courtyard, surrounded by trees, and augmented with “smart home” technologies controllable by touch pads, the 3,000-square-foot home is scheduled for completion by Memorial Day 2018, said John Hodge, the foundation’s chief operating officer.
“It’s hard to find the words sometimes to respond to all the generosity and all the support,” Levi said during an afternoon groundbreaking ceremony, addressing a gathering of volunteer contractors and financial donors whose contributions will go toward completing the house.
Levi, a former Army Ranger corporal with the 10th Mountain Division, was injured on his second combat tour of duty — he had served in Afghanistan the year before — when a shaped-charge explosive shattered his Humvee in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood. The explosion also blew off part of a bone in Levi’s right hand, which left him clinging to life and his Humvee awash in blood.
During more than a year spent recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Levi underwent multiple corrective surgeries on his hand and legs. He then had to learn the nuances of balance and endurance needed to get around on mechanized knees, shins and feet crafted from metal and plastic.
After Levi was well enough for discharge from Walter Reed in 2009, he moved back to his parent’s home in Holbrook, the lower floor of which volunteers had renovated in his absence to accommodate his disability.
He has lived with his parents ever since, completing a business degree at Long Island University last year, and starting out on his own as a financial adviser.
The foundation is named after FDNY firefighter Stephen G. Siller, of Staten Island, who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001 collapse of the World Trade Center. The foundation has collected more than $72 million since then, according to spokeswoman Catherine Christman, who said Levi is the 66th beneficiary of a homes it has donated.