Santiago receives home keys

QUEEN ANNE, Md. – Aug. 3 was a special day for Marine Sgt. Chris Santiago and his family.

On that day the Santiagos received the keys to their new home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that was built through Homes for Our Troops.

The house in Queen Anne, Md., was constructed with features that allow Chris to move around easily inside.

Chris, a 2002 graduate of Parkersburg High School, was severely injured on Sept. 16, 2006, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq. Chris lost his legs below the knees and suffered major injuries to his left arm in the explosion.

But he has fought back after many surgeries and a long rehabilitation in military hospitals. Chris walks with prosthetic legs and uses a wheelchair at home.

Chris, 28, works in the Washington Navy Yard and is attending college.

“The key ceremony was truly, truly overwhelming,” said Chris’ mother, Terri Santiago of Parkersburg.

The home is gorgeous and allows Chris to maneuver his wheelchair up to kitchen counters, into the shower and reach items in cabinets, she said.

The small town of Queen Anne turned out in large numbers for a parade in Chris’ honor during the key ceremony. People brought food and waved U.S. flags during the celebration.

“It was America at its best,” Terri said. “These people welcomed Chris.”

A flag-raising was held at the new home and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited. A U.S. flag and Marine Corps flag fly from a pole on the Santiago property.

Chris and his wife, Becky, have two sons, Robert, 6, and Christopher, 3.

Chris was quoted on the Homes for Our Troops website as saying:

“For someone to care so much as to support this cause is incredible. There are rooms in my current home (Bowie, Md.) that while in my wheelchair I simply cannot go into.

“Assistance from Homes for Our Troops will change that completely. It will allow me to do more activities in my wheelchair which will alleviate many of my daily pains that I experience after being on my prosthetic legs beginning at 5 a.m. I will be comfortable in my own home again. Thank you for caring enough to make a difference.”

Terri said Chris is scheduled to have more surgery on his left arm this fall, but maintains a positive outlook.

Homes for Our Troops is a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 to help severely injured veterans by building homes for them.

The organization raises all the money, obtains the building materials and gets the professional labor to build the homes at no cost to the veterans.

Chris started the interview process with Homes for Our Troops two years ago in Boston, Terri said.

Construction on the house began last October. The property is surrounded by farmland.

“It’s such a wonderful gift,” Terri said. “Chris is so thrilled and appreciative.”