Paralyzed Marine breaks ground on dream house in Jacksonville

Ben Tomlinson got a look at his future independence on Tuesday afternoon.

The 26-year-old veteran of the Marine Corps broke ground on his new Jacksonville "Smart House."{} Tomlinson was shot in the back in May 2010, while serving as a Marine Sergeant in Afghanistan.{} He{}became paralyzed from the chest down.

The Building for America's Bravest Program selected Tomlinson to receive a custom home designed to accommodate his wheelchair and other needs.{} The program is a partnership between the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Gary Sinise Foundation.

"It's unbelievable, isn't it?{} It's something that a lot of people have to work their whole lifetime to be able to own their own house," Tomlinson said.

"It's a lifelong dream and pursuit so I'm kind of getting a big head start on this.{} It's been great."

Tomlinson returned to Jacksonville in January 2012 and moved in with his parents.{} His new three-bedroom house will be next door.{} The hallways will be wider than those in most homes.{} The cabinets will raise and lower to Tomlinson's height, and the countertops will also have adjustable levels.

He will also have a control pad on a portable smart phone or tablet device.

"I know I can operate a lot of things from an iPad or an iPhone.{} Climate control, windows, lights, doors, different kitchen appliances, obviously electronics in the house, such as the TV," Tomlinson said.

"It's going to make the independent part of my life a lot easier.{} I can't wait to get in there and see what I can do with all the technology they put in there."

Donors include Veteran's United, AOD Federal Credit Union, General Electric, Carpet One, Shubert Design, Semper Fi Fund, and Hope For The Warriors.{}{} There was also a benefit concert in Jacksonville in May 2013, including a performance by Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.{} Members of the community contributed funds for the construction as well.

In addition to the traditional tossing of dirt, the builders knocked down the first tree as part of Tuesday's{}ceremony.{} Tomlinson is a graduate of nearby Jacksonville High School, and the entire student body walked down the street to attend the groundbreaking.