A New Jersey veteran was rendered “absolutely speechless” after the Tunnel to Towers foundation gifted him a home Thursday.
Marine Sgt. Aaron Alonso lost both his legs after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2014 but survived the ordeal.
From then on, Alonso knew his life would not be the same.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation stepped in to build Alonso a customized smart home in the township of Hampton, New Jersey.
Fox 5 New York reported that the home features drop-down cabinets and wheelchair-accessible light switches and microwaves.
“It is freedom. It’s independence,” Alonso said. “It’s someplace where I can gather with my family.”
“I’m absolutely speechless right now,” Alonso added. “Anybody that’s out there that knows me can tell you that this doesn’t ever really happen.”
Alonso and his family gathered, along with volunteers and well-wishers, at the finished home on Thursday.
After a brief ceremony featuring the Hampton Township Fire Department and other first responders, Alonso, 32, and his seven-year-old daughter Riley raised the American flag outside the home before entering it for the first time, according to the New Jersey Herald.
At the ceremony, Alonso urged people to thank a former service member or visit a veterans’ cemetery this Memorial Day weekend.
“Better yet, go find a Gold Star family and thank them for their service because they’re the ones that also sacrifice so much,” Alonso told attendees. “Losing a loved one is never easy, and when it’s your better half – your son, your daughter, your brother – it can definitely be difficult.”
Tunnel to Towers was founded by Frank Siller after his brother Stephen died on 9/11. Stephen sacrificed his life as a firefighter to save the victims in the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attacks.
The foundation helps severely injured or families of recently fallen veterans and first responders by providing homes at no cost to them.