Wade Mitcheltree, a retired sergeant first class in the U.S. Army, is getting a 'smart home' built for him and his family.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Wade Mitcheltree and his family — Katie, wife, and his two sons, Joseph, 15, and Ethan, 11, listen to Chris Kuban, representing the Gary Sinise Foundation, during the "Walls of Honor" event.After giving something up for his country — losing both his legs and one of his hands to a bomb blast near Kandahar, Afghanistan — retired Sgt. 1st Class Wade Mitcheltree is getting something back.

Mitcheltree and his family, residents of Tigard, are having a house built for them on Inez Street courtesy of the Gary Sinise Foundation. The foundation, started by the actor nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in the film "Forrest Gump," works with contractors, developers and other community partners across the United States to build "smart homes" for disabled military veterans.

The house being built for Mitcheltree, a veteran of the U.S. Army who was wounded in action in 2012, is one of 59 planned or in progress nationwide this year, according to foundation spokesman Chris Kuban.

"Every single one of us that are here standing in this room, I think we take for granted, on a daily basis, a lot of things," Kuban said Monday at an event inside the partially finished Mitcheltree house. "We take for granted getting out of bed in the morning. We take for granted going to the bathroom and showering, or even brush our teeth. We take for granted going to the kitchen and getting a cup of coffee or putting something on the stove."

He added, "A lot of people ask us, 'What makes a smart house a smart house for these guys?' And it's not only that they're energy-efficient, but that it gets you the independence that you deserve — so everything runs off an iPad."

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Heidi Gettinger, 16, writes a message on the wood of the new home of retired U.S. Army Sgt. Wade Mitcheltree during the "Walls of Honor" event held by the Gary Sinise Foundation. Gettinger is a neighbor of the family.The Gary Sinise Foundation held the "Walls of Honor" event Monday to call attention to Mitcheltree's story — The Times published an article about him in February — and the work that the foundation and its partners are doing on the house, which will be outfitted with systems like lighting, security, and audio and video linked to a tablet computer for ease of use.

The main attraction, though, was that attendees got the opportunity to take a permanent marker and write on the walls.

Those messages of gratitude, appreciation and support, left by the Mitcheltrees' new neighbors, representatives from the contractors and nonprofit groups working on the project, fellow veterans from the Patriot Guard Riders, and others, will be covered over by drywall, plaster and paint as construction continues. But they will be part of the structure of the house for as long as it stands.

"It's really great that you guys took the time out … to come over here and tag our walls," Mitcheltree said, to laughter. "And hopefully we get around to look at each and every one before it's covered up, but hey, next time I decide to put something else up, to poke a hole in the wall, it'll be nice to have a little message in there."

Mitcheltree also was given a Bible to place inside a wall in the house at the event.

Four D Construction, based in Beaverton, is the homebuilder for the Mitcheltree smart home.

The project is supported by The Home Depot Foundation, The Marcus Foundation and Semper Fi Fund through the Gary Sinise Foundation. Other companies and contractors are donating furnishings, components, household items and labor as well.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The Patriot Guard Riders hold American flags as they escort welcome retired U.S. Army Sgt. Wade Mitcheltree and his family to his new home during the "Walls of Honor" event held by the Gary Sinise Foundation.

By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times
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