EAST AURORA, N.Y. — A Marine Corps veteran and his family now have a home that fits all their needs thanks to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
Members of the organization — which was established in honor of a fallen 9/11 firefighter — and their partners gathered in front of a giant American flag Thursday morning. Behind it was the newly remodeled home of retired Corporal Mark O'Brien and his family.
The organization first contacted the family back in March to offer them the opportunity for a new home. They thought it was too good to be true and were convinced it was a prank. Once they found out the offer was legit, they declined because they said they already had a house, though it didn't meet all of Mark's needs.
He was critically injured by a rocket-propelled grenade during his second tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. He lost an arm and a leg.
The family said the organization convinced them to accept this once-in-a-lifetime gift.
The group remodeled the family's home and added features like remote-controlled lighting and window coverings. The living space is more open and wheelchair accessible — even the stove, so Mark can do more cooking.
"When I'm in my wheelchair I won't have to stand over the stove with one leg. I can get to the microwave and get to the shelves," said O'Brien.
But for this family, it's about more than fancy touches and shiny new things.
"With this house they have given us the opportunity to have him feel like he can move around and be in a home and really function the right way," said his wife Michelle.
"This is appreciation. People don't forget. Even though it gets pushed behind other news stories or what we are seeing in our daily lives, people aren't forgetting what happened and what's still going on in the world with our service members," said O'Brien.