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Air Force veteran receives handicap-accessible home after suffering injuries in parachuting accident

Master Sgt. Francis Reilly became paralyzed in right leg from knee down while serving
Posted at 5:14 PM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 17:26:31-04

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A U.S. Air Force Pararescue veteran was honored Monday morning in Port St. Lucie as he received a mortgage-free house through the Building Homes For Heroes program.

In 2004, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Francis "Frankie" Reilly served as a jumpmaster in Afghanistan, training and teaching the Army techniques for jumping from airplanes.

"I told them, 'Hey, I can't jump,' and they told me, 'We don't have anyone else,'" Reilly said.

Despite his reservations, he said he nervously jumped from the plane.

"I jumped and made a mistake when I left the aircraft. When I let the aircraft, I went head down and went through my parachute," Reilly said. "When my parachute deployed, it took my leg backward at the knee."

Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Francis Reilly's new home features a gym, pool and cycling machine.
Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Francis Reilly's new home features a gym, pool and cycling machine.

The injury caused him to tear all the ligaments in his knee, lose all of his muscles and severely damage all of the nerves in his right leg. He's now paralyzed in his right leg from the knee down.

The veteran was also diagnosed with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury, forcing him to medically retire after 24 years of service.

"I got a grant from the VA when I retired finally back in 2018 to build a handicap home," Reilly said.

The grant was for $100,000.

"When any contractor found out that it was the VA, they would not call us back," Reilly said.

Andy Pujol, the CEO and Founder of Building Homes for Heroes, speaks about the efforts to get retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Francis Reilly and his family into the new home.
Andy Pujol, the CEO and Founder of Building Homes for Heroes, speaks about the efforts to get retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Francis Reilly and his family into the new home.

The Reillys eventually sold their home on base, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, interest rates on homes went up, and the former master sergeant couldn't afford the housing market.

"We brought him to Pulte, and we talked about building a home with Pulte with him and for him and his family, and they're so beautiful," Andy Pujol, the CEO and founder of Building Homes for Heroes, said.

Several organizations, such as Building Homes for Heroes and the PulteGroup, teamed up to renovate a 2,937-square-foot-plus home with four bedrooms and three bathrooms that are handicap accessible.

"This was more prep for anything else because you don't know if three years from now or 30 years from now where he will be, but he will be a part of this community for the next 30 years," Pujol said.

His house also features a gym, pool and cycling machine.

The cycle means the most to the Air Force veteran, who hopes to qualify for the Olympics as a paralympic cyclist.

"The mental resiliency that you get from being outdoors and moving through space at the speeds that you're going," Reilly said. "It's almost like jumping out of an airplane again."