Combat-wounded vet receives warm welcome to new Bronx home

Semisi and Miriama Tokailagi in front of their new home that was donated by Military Warriors Support Foundation in partnership with Bank of America. Credit: Bess Adler
Semisi and Miriama Tokailagi in front of their new home that was donated by Military Warriors Support Foundation in partnership with Bank of America. Credit: Bess Adler

The Bronx welcomed two new New Yorkers on Friday, as U.S. Army Specialist Semisi Tokailagi and his wife arrived to see their new home in Harding Park.

The home was donated by the Military Warriors Support Foundation’s Homes4WoundedHeroes program, which secures 100% mortgage-free homes to veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Friday was one of the most exciting, special days I’ve had as a Bank of America employee,” said Bank of America New York City President Jeff Barker. The Homes4WoundedHeroes program works with the support of financial institutions.

Tokailagi, a native of Fiji, received a Purple Heart after being injured in the line of duty in Afghanistan when a mortar shell exploded near him, landing him in a coma for seven days.

After undergoing emergency surgery, Tokailagi was under intensive care in a hospital in Germany. He has had to relearn how to read and write and has suffered damage to his eyesight. He hopes to become a mechanic with the help of military vocational training programs, Barker said.

Joe Girardi, manager of the New York Yankees, with siblings Jaime and Cameron Pattee, new neighbors of the Tokailagi family. Credit: Bess Adler
Joe Girardi, manager of the New York Yankees, with siblings Jaime and Cameron Pattee, new neighbors of the Tokailagi family. Credit: Bess Adler

Tokailagi and his wife had visited the Bronx some time ago and fallen in love with the area, deciding that one day they would live there.

And now that day is not far off: Bank of America volunteers began work on the house Friday to prepare it for its new occupants. Tokailagi and his wife are slated to move in next month.

The welcome wagon was led by two local kids, Jaime and Cameron Pattee, toting “welcome home” posters for their new neighbors. The young Pattees hung out with New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was on hand to shake hands, sign autographs and and offer Tokailagi a warm Yankees welcome.

“I’d just like to say thank you for your personal sacrifice and allowing us to do what we do freely,” a choked-up Girardi said.

Barker noted that the neighborhood is perfectly suited to receive this new inhabitants: The neighbors who crowded around to receive Tokailagi told him he’s in good company, as the area is full of local and national service members from all forces, ranging from the NYPD and FDNY to the Navy and Air Force.

A neighbor overheard Barker expressing concern for Tokailagi, who did not know anyone in New York City or have any family in the area.

“We’re his family,” the neighbor told Barker. “You have nothing to worry about.”

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.