Army Sgt. Adam Keys, who has been one of the longest-term residents at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, now has a home of his own.
Keys endured more than 130 surgeries and has spent five years at Walter Reed recovering from injuries he suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Afghanistan in 2010. On July 1, he received the keys to a new “smart home” in Crownsville, just outside of Annapolis.
Keys received a hero’s welcome at a dedication ceremony for the home last week. More than 100 of Keys’ family, friends and supporters were in attendance. Congressman Charlie Dent, who represents the Pennsylvania town where Keys spent part of his childhood, gave Keys a flag that flew over the Capitol and Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets, invited Keys to the Jets’ home opener this fall, according to a recap of the event in the Pennsylvania paper The Morning Call.
“It was awesome,” Keys said Tuesday. “This house is perfect. I’m in a wheelchair the majority of the time and it’s made specifically for me.”
The new home includes automated windows, controllable cabinet shelves, a cook stove that can be lowered, and other features designed to help Keys, 31, regain an independent lifestyle. Each feature can be controlled by an iPad.
Keys said he’ll move into the home in about a week and a half.
Photos: Adam Keys enters his new home (left). A giant American flag is removed to reveal Keys' new house at the ceremony (right). Photos credit: Louis Enriquez/ Tunnel to Towers Foundation
“They built an amazing home,” Julie Keys, Adam’s mother, said.
Julie Keys has helped Adam recover while he was living in quarters for injured veterans at the Bethesda medical center for the past five years. Keys lost both his legs and part of his left arm due to the explosion. His recovery and the loss of his best friend, Jesse Reed, in the explosion was detailed in a 2014 Bethesda Magazine article.
Julie and Adam’s father, Stephen, will help Adam move into his new home. “My husband and I will be moving in with him for a short time,” Julie said. “I think that’s more for me than him.”
She added that they plan to find a home near Adam’s house. “It’s going to be awesome to be in a home, and sit on the deck and barbecue,” Julie said. “To do all those little things that we all take for granted, which I never will again.”
Adam Keys said living in his new home will help him regain a sense of independence and represents a key point in his recovery.
“It’s going to take a huge burden off my family,” Keys said. “I’ll be all on my own. They’ve helped me along the way, but no one wants to live with their parents forever.
"I see the light at the end of the tunnel for sure. It’s been a long haul.”
Keys said he was attracted to the Annapolis area after making about 20 to 25 trips there while being treated at Walter Reed. He’s made a number of friends in the area and found that it resembles his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Keys moved to Pennsylvania from Halifax when he was in grade school. After graduating high school, he received his green card and joined the U.S. Army.
Keys is scheduled to retire July 27 from the Army and will begin a new life in the Crownsville home. “It will be just over five years,” Keys said. “It’s hard to keep my eye on the prize, but I’m glad I did.”
He said he’s adjusting well to his prosthetics—which he uses to stand and walk. He said he recently spent 12 hours wearing them. One of the reasons he chose to live in Crownsville is its proximity to Walter Reed, in case he needs to return for adjustments to the prosthetics.
Johnson, the New York Jets owner, and actor Gary Sinise—who played wounded veteran Lt. Dan Taylor in the movie Forrest Gump—helped pay for Keys’ home, which was built through a joint effort by the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
The Siller Foundation was founded in honor of Siller, a New York City firefighter who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. Both organizations help to build smart homes for wounded veterans and first responders.
“I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done and everyone who has supported me along the way,” Keys said. He added that he’s excited to attend the opening game for the Jets—his favorite team.
“I think they’re playing the [Cleveland] Browns, I’ll be up for that,” Keys said.
Adam Keys standing and addressing the crowd at the ceremony. Credit: Louis Enriquez/ Tunnel to Towers Foundation
Jets owner Woody Johnson, who provided funds to help build the house, speaks at the ceremony. Johnson invited Keys to attend the Jets 2015 opener. Credit: Louis Enriquez/ Tunnel to Towers Foundation