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Injured vet Brandon Long gets keys to new home in St. Augustine

Specially adapted house provided by Homes for Our Troops, local volunteers

Posted: July 26, 2014 - 9:32pm  |  Updated: July 26, 2014 - 9:38pm
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Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Long thanks Homes for Our Troops for his specially adapted home in St. Augustine on Saturday.  Alex.Sanchez@staugustine.com
Alex.Sanchez@staugustine.com
Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Long thanks Homes for Our Troops for his specially adapted home in St. Augustine on Saturday.

After 3 1/2 years of seeing almost everything in his life become harder, Brandon Long can finally enjoy a little relief.

And he can do so in his own house.

Long, a retired Marine lance corporal who lost both of his legs in December 2010 while serving in Afghanistan, moved into his new home Saturday on Honey Branch Lane. Joining him were wife Nicole and daughter Claire.

The home was built for him by the nonprofit group Homes for Our Troops and was designed especially to meet Long’s needs.

“Four years ago, almost, when I got wounded, I thought it was over,” Long said. “I’ve lived in three apartments since then, and none have been able to fully accommodate my wheelchair. My wife has to deal with me all angry and frustrated because I’m getting stuck in the bathroom trying to turn around.

“Those are the little struggles that we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.”

There were few signs of frustration Saturday as the Longs toured their completed home for the first time. They got to see the wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and closets. They got to check out their new kitchen with lower countertops that provide easier access for Brandon — and maybe 3-year-old Claire, too.

Brandon is looking forward to the independence the new house will give him.

“It’s going to be nice to say, ‘Sit down, babe, I’m cooking dinner tonight,’ ” he said. “It’s definitely a great weight lifted off my family. They know I’m not going to struggle anymore.”

In looking for success stories of injured veterans adjusting to normal life with the help of specially adapted houses, the Longs can look to their neighbors.

Homes for Our Troops built houses for John Hayes and Tyler Southern on the same street. The Hayes and Southern families were on hand for the Longs’ groundbreaking ceremony in December and have added to the support system.

“It’s going to be nice to live in a place that [has people who] are 100 percent relatable,” Nicole Long said.

For the Longs, the journey of getting to this point has been a hectic one.

Long was injured just two days before the birth of Claire. He stepped on an IED, which exploded and blew off both of his legs.

The explosion nearly killed him, and he lost 98 percent of his blood volume.

Follow-up surgeries, recovery and rehabilitation took up the better part of the next two years. But even when he was able to return home to his native Indiana, life was still quite a struggle.

Then he was selected by Homes for Our Troops to be a recipient of a new house, and the Longs moved to St. Augustine in the winter of 2013 while construction was underway.

“Honestly, it’s the small things that we truly took for granted,” Nicole Long said. “I didn’t think we’d ever get [to this point].”

Brandon’s mother, Lisa, also attended Saturday’s ceremony, and she shared stories about her son’s daredevil personality and how it hasn’t really changed. But the daily struggles of living in places not built for a person in a wheelchair did take their toll on him.

His mother rejoiced in the fact that those days are now over.

“Today you are giving him back so much freedom that he lost,” his mother told volunteers and supporters. “It’s people like you who make America the greatest place.”

Now that they’ve been in St. Johns County for a few months, the Longs are happy to call it their permanent home.

“It has made things very bright for me,” Brandon Long said.

“No more moving in my future.”

 
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