Winter Park celebrates wounded vet's homecoming

Wounded vet moves in

  • By
  • | 7:18 a.m. September 3, 2015
Tanya Tarud, member of the Orlando Navy Operation Support Center Color Guard, helps welcome Bacary Sambou to his new home.
Tanya Tarud, member of the Orlando Navy Operation Support Center Color Guard, helps welcome Bacary Sambou to his new home.
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
  • News
  • Share

A wounded soldier has finally come home.

Winter Park residents and City Commissioners greeted a wounded war veteran as one of their own last Wednesday as Sgt. First Class Bacary Sambou of the United States Army was given the keys to his new home – a donation that’s been more than a year in the making.

The front yard outside the home at 663 Symonds Ave. was filled with spectators as Sambou addressed the crowd from his electric wheelchair on the front porch.

“I’m really happy today,” said Sambou, who will share the house with his sister. “You make me feel at home.”

“I just want to say thank you to everybody. God bless you.”

The endeavor to give Sambou a new home in Winter Park all started back in March 2014, when City Commissioners voted to donate a plot of land within the city to the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust, an organization that found Sgt. Sambou through a non-profit called Fairways for Warriors.

The land trust had been looking to find a wounded veteran to donate a house to, and Sambou fit the bill.

The Army sergeant’s life was changed forever on March 17, 2012 during a tour in Afghanistan, when a routine supply mission turned tragic. Sambou’s MRAP vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device, which was triggered by Taliban soldiers lying in wait nearby.

“You heard this kaboom,” Sambou told the Observer last year. “Some of the Taliban was coming to us.”

A U.S. Army helicopter managed to drive the Taliban away with machine gun fire, but Sambou was still severely wounded during the explosion, suffering a spinal cord injury, a broken leg, two broken ribs, a broken hand and a vertical cut across the right side of his face that split his eye. He still deals with a traumatic brain injury today, along with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sambou has been receiving treatment and therapy ever since at the NeuroRestorative Center in Avalon Park. His condition continues to improve since he arrived in December 2012, despite initially being declared paralyzed from the neck down by doctors. Daily workouts with exercise bands and arm bikes build back his strength each week.

Today he can move one arm and one leg, progress that he thanks God for every day.

But Sambou is just as thankful for his new house, which came when he needed it most as a soldier at risk of being homeless once the U.S. Army honorably discharged him. Last year the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust got to work, rallying Palm Harbor Homes to donate labor and supplies for a new home while Fairways for Warriors helped raise funds to purchase other materials through a charity golf tournament.

Donations from Fair Housing Continuum, VA Special Adaptive Housing, Wells Fargo and other organizations also moved the project forward.

A year’s worth of hard work paid off as Sambou and his sister’s dream of a new home finally materialized last week.

“This is their house, this is where they’re going to make home,” said Denise Weathers, executive director of Hannibal Square Community Land Trust. “…Welcome them and embrace them.”

“This is what makes Winter Park: it’s community and it’s people,” City Commissioner Tom McMacken said. “I’m proud to stand up here representing the Commission and welcome you to your new home.”

Sambou said he was proud to be one of those people who served their country.

“From the bottom of my heart, I think the best way to be part of your country is to do something for your country,” Sambou said.

“If I had to do it again, I’d do it again.”


Latest News