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Deslauriers family gifted their 'forever home'

  • Published
  • By Dawn Hart
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
The inscription said it all, “Thank you… for building our forever home.”

For Master Sgt. Joe and Lisa Deslauriers, the memento they presented was only a small token of their gratitude as they were given a hero’s welcome and were gifted their ‘forever home’ Oct. 25 by Andy Pujol, president of Building Homes for Heroes.

Building Homes for Heroes is a non-profit organization committed to rebuilding lives and supporting injured Veterans. They do more than just provide mortgage-free housing, according to Kelly Hallman, board member and Hillsboro County, Fla, firefighter. “They give these brave young men and women the opportunity to live independently and comfortably and every home is designed to fit that Veteran’s needs.”

Deslauriers, a recently retired 16-year Air Force Special Operations Command Explosive Ordnance Disposal veteran, was deployed to Afghanistan in September of 2011 when his patrol was hit by three IEDs. He rendered safe a fourth IED and cleared a landing zone for a medical evacuation helicopter. While clearing a safe area for ground recovery, he stepped and triggered a fifth hidden IED that resulted in his losing both legs above the knee and his left arm at the elbow.

As Deslauriers, currently the Air Force’s most decorated EOD Airman, recovered from his injuries he moved his family around to five different addresses in the last three years, but decided to make Destin his home.

When they arrived home Saturday, as part of a patriotic procession led by the Hurlburt Honor Guard, bagpipers and EOD motorcyclists, they were greeted by hundreds of dignitaries, family and volunteers all waving American flags.

“This is what ‘right’ looks like and you all know that,” said Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, AFSOC commander. “As I look out into the audience and I see our Vietnam vets out there. A lot of them came home and this nation didn’t bring them home right. We learned a lesson from that and we do it right now. This is what ‘right’ looks like.”

Although Deslauriers watched his home being built from the ground up, since the groundbreaking ceremony in November of 2013, he was not aware it would come fully furnished and decorated, so seeing the home for the first time was an overwhelming experience, according to Lisa.

The home was also built with Joe’s injuries in mind – to give him an environment that is safer and more automated. The entire house can be controlled with an iPad or iPhone to include all the lighting, celling fans, thermostats, total security system, leak detectors and a panic button. The door knobs are even programmed to send a message once the children come home from school and enter their code.

“There’s no word to describe how happy we are,” Joe Deslauriers said. “It’s an incredibly breathtaking home. We are the luckiest people. Today is not just a day for us, but it’s a day to thank them -- Building Homes for Heroes, Randy Wise and all the volunteers. “

“I’m so excited, that if I wasn’t pregnant, I would probably go and jump on our bed in our bedroom,” Lisa said.

The next step for the Deslauriers, after lots of moving, “We’re going to pay it forward,” said Joe. “Since our last house was packed up into two pods and everything was donated to us, we’re going to donate back to the community.”

“We’re excited to start making memories here for the rest of our lives and the rest of our kids lives and their families to come thereafter,” said Lisa.

Building Homes for Heroes gifted 17 homes last year and they expect to gift 45 homes in 2015, according to Pujol.