FUQUAY-VARINA, N.C. (WNCN) — US Army Staff Sergeant Tommy Rieman was shot twice in Iraq, covered in shrapnel and still managed to shield a fellow soldier. He received a Silver Star and Purple Heart. Thursday he became a Fuquay-Varina homeowner with the help of Operation: Coming Home.
“This is the Silver Star. This is the third highest award you can receive. It was for gallantry in action. I received it from a mission we did in 2003,” Rieman said.
Rieman was seriously injured, but he managed to shield his gunner and returned fire.
“This is from the 2007 state of the union address. I was President Bush’s featured guest and he talked about me in his speech,” Rieman said.
His face is featured on the cover of an Xbox. He’s also an action figure.
Despite the accolades, he was hurting inside.
“Became an alcoholic, addicted to medication. And I started to make choices that added to that pile and it got bigger and bigger and bigger. And it became unmanageable. So I attempted to kill myself twice, obviously I’m still here,” Rieman said.
He’s open and honest about what he’s been through. He’s using his experiences to help others, working with the Veterans Bridge Home.
He heard about Operation: Coming home and how they’d given away 18 homes to veterans.
“Just didn’t feel like I deserved it,” he said.
Finally at the encouragement of friends, he applied.
In the fall, he learned he’d won. That he would be moving from Charlotte to Fuquay-Varina.
Thursday morning he got to see his new home for the first time.
“It was simply, we’re so grateful for you and honored by you we want you to have this,” Rieman said.
He’s been clean and sober 6 years, and plans to continue paying it forward.
“I mean there’s 1.2 million people that are in the US Army right now and if its because I went to do my job, I knew what I signed up for the mission. I knew what was possible. It was my honor to do that. Nobody owes me anything for it,” Rieman said.
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