NICHOLASVILLE — A Marine who lost both legs and his eyesight after a 2007 explosion in Iraq began a new chapter of his life Thursday with the groundbreaking of a new house.
Cpl. Matt Bradford, a Purple Heart recipient who grew up in Winchester, will receive one of two houses in Kentucky from a program called Helping a Hero. The organization supports military personnel severely injured during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I'm very happy," Bradford said before the ceremony. "This is very generous. It's a great thing."
The house in Equestrian Estates in northern Jessamine County will have one story, wider doorways and hallways, a shower that can accommodate a wheelchair, and voice-activated controls to turn on a television, said Meredith Iler, national chairman and founder of Helping a Hero.
"He'll be able to be as independent as possible," Iler said. "We will also bring a lot of our biometric technology where he will be able to open his doors with his thumb instead of having to figure out which key he has."
Each room in the house will have different wall textures "so that if he were ever to fall, he could touch the wall and know which room he's in," Iler said.
Helping a Hero, based in Houston, has awarded 90 homes in 21 states to people who were severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
About $200,000 will be raised for the Bradford house from private donations, Iler said. "The family is responsible for a $50,000 mortgage," she said. "And so it's really great for them, because it gives them an opportunity to participate but at a level where they're able to on a fixed disability salary."
The Bradford house is scheduled to be finished in August by Peterson Homes. Bradford, 26, and his wife, Amanda, 33, commit to remain in the house for 10 years. The couple have three children: Nolan, 9, Emma, 7 and Layla, who turns 1 next week. The family now rents a two-level house in Lexington.
"This is such a blessing," Amanda Bradford said of the planned house. "It's going to give Matt his independence and bring our family together on a really different level that we've yet to experience. ... We're really looking forward to getting rid of the stairs for Matt and getting him on the safe one-level."
Matt Bradford stepped on an improvised explosive device in January 2007. Shrapnel penetrated his left eye and peppered his right. He now wears prosthetic legs and uses a cane.
"Life is a journey of many ups and downs and trials and tribulations," he told the crowd at the groundbreaking. "From now on, on this land right here, Amanda and I are starting on a new journey in life."
Matt Bradford is a big fan of the University of Kentucky men's basketball team, and he received a standing ovation at Rupp Arena when the Cats played Auburn on Feb. 9.
Tom Leach, the voice of the Wildcats, referred to that recognition at the groundbreaking.
"That may have been the biggest ovation we've heard all year, and that's saying something when you're talking about Kentucky basketball," Leach said. "His neighbors and the whole commonwealth of Kentucky know what somebody like this means to our country — that people are willing to make that kind of sacrifice for all of us. I can't think of anybody that deserves a standing ovation more than that."
Matt Bradford takes public speaking and communications classes at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, and he hopes to become a Wildcats sports analyst.
Another Helping a Hero house in Bowling Green is two weeks from completion. Army Sgt. J.D. Williams, the recipient of that house, attended Thursday's groundbreaking. Willliams lost both legs and an arm in 2010 after an improvised explosive device blew up in Afghanistan.
Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul also spoke at the ceremony.
"I think it's important that we know that not only was Matt heroic in battle, but there's a lot of heroism going on once they get home," Paul said.
Paul said he will join U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth in August to raise money for Help for a Hero to fund a house in Jefferson County.
For more information about the home program, go to Helpingahero.org