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‘This man earned this’: Retired army veteran gifted with mortgage-free home

Tunnel to Towers is a nonprofit that aims to provide mortgage-free specialty-adapted smart homes to wounded veterans.

CHESTERFIELD, Va. — Retired U.S. Army Captain James Howard and his family received a hero’s welcome Thursday after a nonprofit surprised the veteran by paying off the mortgage on his Chesterfield home.

Howard was escorted to his home by a team of bikers and first responders. The veterans day event was organized by the nonprofit Tunnel to Towers (T2T) which was formed after the events of 9/11 with the mission of providing mortgage-free specialty-adapted smart homes to wounded veterans and first responders to reclaim their independence.

After serving multiple tours overseas in the early 2000s Howard says was forced to medically retire in 2010 sacrificing his body and mobility in the name of freedom.

“I felt my obligation and during the time that our country was attacked it seemed like the right thing to do,” Howard said. “I consider that a point that changed my path in life.”

In the years following his retirement though wheelchair-bound, Howard decided to continue to dedicate his life to service by helping others facing the challenges that come with disability.

“I refer to my injury as a blessing from the misfortune which leads me to start two nonprofits to kind of help other children and veterans with disabilities,” Howard said.

In 2014. Howard established REACHcycles, an organization dedicated to creating mobility and independence for children with disabilities. Since its inception, has donated more than 1,000 bikes to kids.

He also founded the organization Veterans & Athletes United (VAU) which focuses on providing support to disabled veterans and their families through accessible retreats and adaptive sports/recreation.

It was through VAU that Howard also created the Fallen Warrior Memorial a monument made up of over 7,000 dog tags with the names of each of the lives lost in the war on terror as well as gold star families.

It was through his two foundations that Howard crossed passed with the chairman and CEO of T2T Frank Siller at a veterans day event in D.C. who immediately noticed Howard’s dedication to a life of service.

“For somebody with his injuries doing the work that he’s doing it tells us all that we’re here for others and not for ourselves,” Siller said.

Howard was eventually selected by T2T to be the recipient of a Smart Home, but because the veteran already lived in Chesterfield they decided to renovate his home into a smart home and pay off the rest of his mortgage.

“We paid off the mortgage so now he doesn’t have to worry about that,” Siller said. “We serve the great heroes who protect us every single day. This man has earned this.”

Siller says he hopes it gives Howard, his wife and two-year-old son, and his two bulldogs one less challenge to overcome.

“To have a forever home., nothing brings me more peace of mind than to know my family will always be taken care of,” Howard said. “We have this home now where we can continue to serve others...

Howard Smart-Home was made possible thanks to the support of public and private donations. If you would like to support T2T and their cause you can do so HERE.

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