Volunteers help Tampa Bay area veteran who nearly paid the ultimate price

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.  (WFLA) – He’s a man who nearly made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country, and now, the St. Petersburg veteran needs help.

Approximately three dozen volunteers came to Michael Jernigan’s home on Saturday, and spent time giving it a fresh coat of paint while ripping out the carpets and putting in wood flooring.

“I think it’s amazing,” said the combat-wounded USMC infantryman and Purple Heart recipient.

The home has been in Jernigan’s family for years, and on Saturday, the volunteers worked on the house through the non-profit group ServiceSource Warrior program.

“They’re patriots,” Frank Delucia said of the program. “They give so much for us. It’s the least we can do to make sure that their home is a nice environment, healthy, welcoming, dignified place to live.”

It’s an honor for them to lend a helping hand to Michael, a third-generation infantry assault man in the United States Marine Corps who nearly lost his life on the battlefield.

“It’s kind of a medical miracle that I survived the battlefield,” Jernigan recalled as he stood outside the house.

He relived the sequence of events that took place in August 2004. 

Jernigan and four others were on a mission in Iraq when their Humvee hit an IED.

Michael survived with nearly half of his cranium crushed and shrapnel through both eyes.

“I’m the first U.S. service member to lose both eyes in the global war on terror,” he told News Channel 8.

But it doesn’t end there. He had two fingers blown off, one hand fully reconstructed, and the list of injuries goes on and on.

After thirty surgeries and 16 months in the hospital, Jernigan came home for good.

When asked how it is that he’s still alive and standing today, he quickly replied, “America makes tough men.”

Tough enough to ask for help, and the volunteers are more than willing to pay it forward.

“Michael Jernigan is a very deserving individual and given a lot to our country,” said Brian Brooks, of Floor & Décor, one of the sponsors, who also volunteered his time.

“So what better to come out today and give back,” said Gerald Partney of Bank of America, another sponsor, that works with and helps veterans.

For Jernigan, these volunteers represent everything and everyone he fought for.  Now, they’re going to bat for him.

“To see a country give back to me for my sacrifice just makes me realize that there is good in our country today,” Jernigan told News Channel 8.

ServiceSource Warrior was established in 1971 and has served nearly 25,000 people with disabilities every year.

In Florida, the group averages helping one veteran with their home every month.

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