Wounded Marine and wife move into Peters Township ‘smart home’
Alexis Vitale can now move her husband out of bed without the assistance of others.
On Independence Day, organizers unveiled a new 3,000-square-foot colonial-style “smart home” at 445 Longleaf Drive in Peters Township, where she and her husband, Sgt. Doug Vitale, will live after the U.S. Marine underwent a two-year rehabilitation process in Florida.
Sgt. Vitale lost both of his legs above the knee after he stepped on an explosive while patrolling in Afghanistan in September 2011.
Because of blood loss, Vitale also suffered strokes on both sides of his brain, leaving him with severe mobility and cognitive impairment. The smart home will allow the couple greater mobility with automated doors, adjusted height counters and a lift system from the bathroom to the bedroom.
“The least we could do for this man is give him a house,” said Commander Scott Huenefeld Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 764 in McMurray.
The McMurray VFW is credited with donating $170,000, one of the most significant collections toward the $500,000 home.
Shane Peterman, a 26 year-old Marine who served under squad commander Vitale, saved Vitale’s life that day. He was modest in his reluctance to tell the story.
“There’s not much to tell,” Peterman said. “I helped him … helped get him the care he needed after he was obviously so badly wounded.”
On this Fourth of July, Peterman raised the American and Marine Corps flags in the Vitales’ new front yard.
Fundraising for the Vitales’ home started last year, when the Gary Sinise Foundation held a concert at Stage AE with the namesake philanthropist performing with his Lt. Dan Band. The smart home is one of eight around the county that severely wounded veterans have moved into this year. The Sinise Foundation and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation want to complete 17 homes by the end of 2014.
“If it were not for 9/11, we would not have to build these homes,” said Frank Siller, chairman of the Siller Foundation.
Siller said his brother, a New York firefighter, died that September day running nearly two miles to the scene of the falling World Trade Center towers.
“And if it were not for that day, we would not have had to send our young men and women to die to protect us,” Siller said. “So those who ask, ‘Why is a 9/11 organization helping building these homes?’ We owe it to you and to your families.”
Siller said he’s never seen devotion like he has from Doug’s wife Alexis.
“We’ve never seen the level of commitment to their husband like this woman has,” Siller said. “It is a true inspiration and Doug Vitale is a very lucky man.”