Three weeks into his deployment to Afghanistan in 2010, a young soldier from Cape Coral named Corey Kent suffered critical injury after he stepped on a concealed improvised explosive device while on patrol.
On Sunday, the community he calls home repaid his sacrifice just a little with the keys to a new "smart" home designed to make life easier for the quiet man who has consistently shied away from the limelight and the designation "hero."
The "grand reveal," attended Sunday by hundreds of well-wishers and dignitaries, was made possible by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, established in honor of the fallen 9/11 firefighter. It is the 56th home the foundation has built through its Building for America's Bravest program. The house, constructed by Aubuchon Homes, employs a wide array of high-tech features run off an iPad - from opening the blinds and the front door to operating the microwave oven. The shelves in the kitchen even come down to allow easy access to dishes, glasses or whatever, all with the push of a button on the wall or the iPhone.
Army Sgt. Corey Kent (Ret.), with his wife, Brandy, addresses well-wishers at the presentation of a new 'smart' home. The presentation was made possible by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, established in honor of the fallen 9/11 firefighter. It is the 56th home the foundation has built through its Building for America’s Bravest program and constructed by Aubuchon Homes.
"It's still a little surreal. It will be real interesting when everyone leaves and it will be just us," said Kent, who married on July 12, the anniversary date of his injury. "I was shocked when I saw it. Everything we picked has come together. It looks amazing."
"Everything we could have asked for in this home in in there," his wife, Brandy, said. "Tunnel to Towers has been like family and it's wonderful they've done this."
John Hodge, chief operating officer for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, said the pleasure is theirs.
"We love the homes we give away on Sept. 11 because they have special meaning," he said. "We've been in many communities. Cape Coral and Fort Myers have been spectacular."
He provided an example.
"When we broke ground at Mariner High School, the patriotism displayed by the kids was amazing with 2,000 kids waving American flags," Hodge said.
Sunday's presentation ceremony started at 9:15 a.m. with a motorcade that started at the Publix Shoppes in the north Cape. The escort was provided by the Cape Coral Police Department, the Cape Coral Fire Department and the Patriot Guard Riders
The motorcade proceeded to Shady Grove Lane, with the Mariner High School Band picking them up at the foot of the street to lead them to the new home.
Among the dignitaries were Cape Coral City Council members Richard Leon and Jessica Cosden, County Commissioner Brian Hamman and State Rep. Dane Eagle.
The event featured the Mariner High School choir singing the National Anthem and the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
It also featured George Siller, one of Stephen's brothers, who talked about his sibling and recited a poem he wrote days after he died in the south tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as officials from the many companies that had a hand in making the Kent home a reality.
Gary Aubuchon said it was a great day for Southwest Florida and the Kent family.
"I can't tell you what a privilege it is to be here and an honor to be a part of this project. For us, it's the most meaningful project we've done," Aubuchon said. "There was a lot of love that went into this house. My hope for you is that this house is always filled with love, happiness and God's blessings."
At 9:59 a.m., the moment the south tower fell 15 years ago, the Kents' new home was unveiled when the enormous American Flag was pulled back, to a standing ovation by the hundreds in attendance.
Kent was also presented a flag that was flown in his honor in Afghanistan before giving thanks to everyone involved.
"You guys have been supportive since I was injured and it's amazing. Were honored and thankful to be receiving our home today. This will be the beginning of the rest of our lives, and were thankful," Kent said.