Double-amputee Marine Staff Sgt. Marcus Burleson got a big surprise Tuesday in Dublin when he walked through the doors of his new customized smart home, which was made possible by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
“(Marcus) was deployed to Afghanistan in October 2011 until December 2011 where on patrol he was part of the unit identifying IEDs (improvised explosive device) and uncovered one, rendered it safe, went on the next and while attempting to render that device he was kneeling over when it detonated,” said foundation director of marketing and development Andrew McClure. “As a result he was in a coma for two weeks and his injuries — amputation of both arms, a broken neck, several facial fractures, lost total vision in his left eye and sustained burns to his face, neck and shoulder.”
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was started by the family of Stephen Siller who was a Brooklyn firefighter killed while saving others on Sept. 11, 2001.
“The mission of Tunnel to Towers is to give independence back to those who have paid a daunting price for our freedom,” a release from the organization states.
Burleson was escorted to his new residence in a Bruner Auto GMC in a procession with other veterans and first responders and a ceremony took place with several speakers who took part in building the home.
“This really is a cool thing, just seeing his story,” said Greg Bruner. “He’s been through quite a situation.”
Not only did Burleson receive a new home, but special keepsakes from winner of the 2017 Daytona NASCAR race and Burleson’s favorite driver Kurt Busch. The gifts included a die-cast replica car of the vehicle Busch drove when he won this year’s Daytona and the nose and TV panel from one of Kurt Busch’s Haas Automation Ford Fusion race cars.
Burleson, his girlfriend Taja and her daughter Tinzie walked through their new home in “awe” of what they saw.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s actually here. It’s been such a long road, a long process and it’s unreal,” Burleson said. “(My favorite part is) definitely the breakfast nook. I love looking out of those windows so that’s probably going to be my spot.”
Due to the unique nature of his injuries, Burleson didn’t qualify for many of the grant programs through Veterans Affairs.
“A few of my friends who were already in the program for Stephen Siller’s home foundation recommended me and told them what was going on,” Burleson said. “They said they heard what was going on and they were going to support me and build me a house and never shied away from it. They’ve been there for me ever since.”
Burleson said it doesn’t feel real to him yet.
“I’m kind of waiting for everyone to leave so I can make a cup of coffee and sit down and process everything,” he said with a laugh.
The three will be getting ready for the holidays soon.
“We’ve got to get ready for Christmas, got to get it decorated and get the family out here and actually put it to use and enjoy it,” he said. “I think the Tunnel to Towers Foundation is a member of the one percent in all veteran support organizations. Of all the other organizations out there, the vast majority of them are predators and like to prey on us and use us for their own benefit. Their organization believes in helping us.”
The smart home was beautifully decorated and custom-made specifically for Burleson’s needs.
“It means everything to us. It’s one more thing that I don’t have to worry about,” he said. “It’s the little things in life, the details that make a difference.”
Taja added, “It’s overwhelming, it’s wonderful and it’s an absolutely beautiful home.”
Burleson received the Purple Heart and spends his time trying to make a difference in people’s lives.
Those who helped make this possible for Burleson include the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, GMC, Carpet One, Floors Inc., Brownwood Home Depot, Mohawk, the Semper Fi Fund, Hunter Douglas, Ashley Furniture HomeStore and many other businesses and organizations.