A chance meeting with representatives of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation led to a life-changing event for one brave veteran. Marine Sgt Johnston was severely injured in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, losing his right arm and leg to a roadside IED. After 20 months in the hospital, he lived in a series of residences that posed daily challenges.
He was attending the Wounded Vet Motorcycle Run in Staten Island, N.Y., when he learned about Tunnel to Towers; soon after Johnston submitted an application and within a year the organization was helping him scout a location for a new mortgage-free Smart Home in Hooper, Utah, about 45 minutes north of Salt Lake City.
GMC has been a national partner of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation for the past six years.
Last December, during a festive ceremony with Tunnel to Towers, Johnston received the keys to a 2,350-square-foot house on 1.3 acres, featuring amenities found in many of the Smart Homes, including wider halls and doorways, automatic door openers, cabinets and counters that can be raised or lowered; smartphone-controlled lighting and heating.
“It’s so much easier to get around now, and with no house payment the financial weight is off me,” Johnston says. “Everyone with Tunnel to Towers has been just great.”
Having the home also allows Johnston — originally from East Hartford, Connecticut — to stay close to his mom, who lives an hour away, and his brother, a fellow veteran.
Also attending the ceremony was Jennie Taylor, whose husband Brent was killed in Afghanistan while serving in the Utah Army National Guard. (He was the mayor of neighboring North Ogden.) Within two days of his death, Tunnel to Towers had reached out to Jennie and within weeks had paid off their mortgage through its Gold Star Family Home Program.
To date, 85 Smart Homes have been delivered, are under construction or are being designed through the Foundation. In addition, more than 150 mortgages have been paid off.
Learn more about the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, including its Smart Home and Gold Star Family Home Programs, and see the ways you can donate to the organization by visiting Tunnel2towers.org/GMC.