Sgt. Joel Tavera has lost his eyesight, right leg and suffered burns on over 60 percent of his body, but he's feeling grateful. The Iraq vet moved into a donated 4,200-square-foot home equipped for his needs on Saturday.
"I'm human. I've faltered a few times, but there's always something that reminds me God is always with me. And lo and behold I got a home," Tavera, 23, told the Associated Press.
J.R. Martinez, a "Dancing With The Stars" finalist and injured Iraq vet, was the one who reached out to Building Homes for Heroes to help Tavera. Martinez also invited Tavera to cheer him on in the audience as he tries to claim the "DWTS" grand prize.
"Witnessing Sgt. Tavera's smile despite the circumstances inspires me to this day," Martinez wrote in a Globalgrind.com blog post, "and it can inspire you as well."
Tavera was severely injured back in 2008 when his Sports Utility Vehicle was struck by five rockets, Myfoxtampabay.com reports. Three of his comrades were killed and Tavera has undergone 75 surgeries. He still has a few more to go.
Tavera was awarded with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star and is ready to move into the house in Tampa that Building Homes for Heroes erected just for him, according to Baynews9.com.
"He's almost larger than life," Andy Pujol, a spokesperson for the organization told the news outlet. "He's a son to me and a son to a nation. I think if everyone in the world met him, the world would be a better place."SLIDESHOW (WARNING: SOMEWHAT GRAPHIC PHOTOS)
A Queens, NY native, Sgt. Joel Tavera deployed to Iraq when he was 19 years old. He was severely injured the following spring when his humvee was struck with five rockets.
Tavera, one of the most severely wounded Iraq War veterans, has undergone 75 surgeries, according to Myfoxtampabay.com. The vet lost his eyesight, right leg, four fingers and endured burns on more than 60 percent of his body. However, with the support of family and fellow wounded veterans, including J.R. Martinez of "Dancing With The Stars (pictured left)," Tavera has remained upbeat and ready to adjust to his new life.
"You have two different choices in life when something like this happens. You either get over it and accept it or be depressed," Tavera told FOX35 News. "I like the whole get over it best, better than being depressed." Building Homes For Heroes gave the injured vet another reason to feel hopeful. The organization presented him with a 4,200-square-foot Tampa house built with his needs in mind.
In addition to getting his new home, Tavera was also honored for his bravery with both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star."I keep on hearing people saying that people are forgetting about the soldiers," Tavera told Myfoxtampabay.com "It's organizations just like this that show us all that the soldiers have not been forgotten."