Just a few short months ago in May, an esteemed gathering of city officials, dignitaries and even Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight stood at an empty construction lot to break ground on a home in Temecula.
Today, timed to coincide with the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks 11 years ago, Marine Cpl. Juan Dominguez received the keys to his new Temecula home against the backdrop of a huge American flag.
A formal motorcade brought Dominguez and his wife Alexis to the stage, as patriotic music played and fellow Marines lined his path.
The American hero, who answered the call to defend his country after Sept. 11, was wounded and lost three limbs during his service.
Those honoring Cpl. Dominguez today included Emmy award-winning actor and musician Gary Sinise, Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington, Tunnel to Towers ‘ John Hodge, and Marty Langpap with Standard Pacific Homes.
The gathering, attended by several hundred supporters, well-wishers and new neighbors, was part of a months-long effort by the Gary Sinise Foundation, in partnership with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, to build a smart home for Dominguez.
Cpl. Dominguez chose Temecula as his new home.
“I am amazed that this smart home has come about as a result of a meeting that just took place in December,” Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington told the crowd.
Remembering the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, Washington added: “We all know the sacrifices that first responders made that day and we know our military would hot have been (sent abroad to war) if it were not for 9/11.”
Tunnel to Towers Foundation representative John Hodge echoed the sentiment.
“Had Sept. 11 not happened, none of the men, including Juan Dominguez, would have ever been in harm’s way,” Hodge said.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation was created in honor of Hodge’s cousin, New York firefighter Stephen Siller, who perished while trying to save others in the second tower of the World Trade Center, Hodge explained.
The goal of the organization is to raise funds to improve the lives wounded veterans in honor of Siller.
“By giving Cpl. Dominguez this home, we feel we are giving part of his life back to him,” Hodge said.
Hodge thanked Dominguez for his service, acknowledged the efforts of Gary Sinise and the Gary Sinise Foundation, the generous donations of Ned Wallace of Wallace Air Cargo, and the city of Temecula.
Cpl. Dominguez’ new residence took about six months to build and meets the unique specifications of Building for America’s Bravest.
Modifications for the home include an elevator, easy-access ramps and remote-controlled lights and window treatments via an iPad.
The name of the street on which Dominguez will live — Rivera Drive in Paseo del sol— is appropriately named after another hero who’d perished on Flight 93 on the day of the attacks, according to Standard Pacific Homes’ Marty Langpap.
Dominguez said: “Hopefully this will shed more awareness. We still have a lot of brothers who are coming home severely wounded. We still have people out there in harm’s way.”
Dominguez offered “countless thanks” to all who’d worked to make this day a reality and even sang an original tune to mark the occasion.
And Temecula answered him as only it could. As the giant American flag was pulled back to reveal the Dominguez’ new home, a hot air balloon floated by in the distance.
Kerri S. Mabee can be reached at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @kerrimabee.