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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- It's a story many say has inspired them. The surprises for wounded soldier Michael Hayes just keep coming.
Volunteers completed the home of Michael Hayes on Monday and he says the blessings have been countless. "I won't even know where to start," said Spc. Michael Hayes, when he talked about his new digs, inside and out. "Every time I come out here, it amazes me."
The soldier had no problem walking a WDRB news crew through his newly remodeled home. He said he found his emotions difficult to put into words. "It's very surreal, I wish I had a better way to describe it, but I don't," the burly 26-year-old said as he looked out from his new balcony ramp.
Hayes seemed mesmerized as he looked upon a newly fenced in yard, complete with a wheelchair accessible ramp, all which had been completed in the past few days.
Hayes' mother, Vickie Monroe, said the entire thing began when she asked for a fence to be built to keep in one of his dogs. "One of his dogs was an escape artist," said Monroe.
Monroe contacted Troy Yocum of Active Heroes, a non-profit who has helped more than 1,800 military families in around three years. "We were inspired by his story," said Yocum.
Yocum said the Home Depot Foundation gave them a $15,500 donation to transform Hayes' home to make his life easier. He said they wanted to give him more than just the fence.
After being the sole survivor of a Humvee explosion back in Iraq in 2006, he lost one of his legs and suffered burns on more than 40 percent of his body. He did not let that change his outlook on life. His positivity proved contagious as volunteers made his life easier in a matter of days with a home transformation.
After facing tragedy, he says his faith in mankind was restored. He could not help but get emotional on Sunday when WDRB first came back. "My luck started six years ago when all of this happened," said Hayes, crying. "It just took me a while to figure it out."
He said he was taken back by the fact that strangers came together to help him. The amputee has pursued a career in wrestling and has continued to inspire others, who keep surprising him. Yocum said it is something they wanted to do for veterans. "We want to let them know we appreciate their service," said Yocum.
Yocum surprised Hayes once again on Sunday, Jan. 27, when he brought him $1,500 worth of gift cards to fill his home with furniture.
"It was that last second surprise that they really got me with and I had no idea," said Hayes.
Hayes said he already thought it was "a dream" when Scott Krueger of the Home Depot asked him to come outside on Saturday, where they revealed a brand new grill to him. He said others' kindness has helped restore his faith in mankind.
"I've seen some guys who have gone through some really hard stuff, and this is the stuff that can really pull you out of it," said Hayes.
Hayes said it is time to pay it forward. "Now it is time to make the push and make some moves in wrestling and really see if I can use my trade and what I love to do, see if I can go out there and see what I can do to go out there and help people the way I was just helped," said Hayes.
Hayes said he anticipated bringing his dogs, Bucky and Captain America, in to explore their new home.