Published February 18, 2014
A Tennessee community is rallying around a wounded veteran and her family after their home was destroyed by a Valentine’s Day fire.
U.S. Army Cpl. Susan Downes returned to find her home engulfed in flames Friday after authorities say a friend tried to cook a surprise dinner, WBIR.com reported.
Firefighters were able to save Downes’ retired service dog, Lila, and another dog, but a third was killed in the blaze, the news station reported.
“I hurt more for my kids than I do for myself,” the 33-year-old mother told WBIR.com.
“I can survive. But when they lose everything they have ever had for 15 years, that’s hard,” she said.
Downes became the nation’s first female double leg amputee in 2006, when the Humvee she was riding in, in Afghanistan, was struck by an IED and she was pinned under the truck.
She is a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart recipient.
Now her community and donors across the country are chipping in to build a home that will better suit her needs. A fundraising page quickly garnered more than $10,000.
“I just want my kids to have their home back, their things back. But we have each other, so we can build new memories,” Downes told WATE.com.