Charity Provides Marine Veteran Injured In Iraq With New Smart Home
Dec 19, 2019, 11:28 AM | Updated: 11:32 am
HOOPER, Utah – Through the service and donations of many, Sgt. Brian Johnston was welcomed into his brand-new home Wednesday.
American flags lined his street as he was given a hero’s welcome. A small crowd watched and cheered as Johnston raised an American flag outside his new house and ceremoniously cut the ribbon before going inside. The house is unique, as it’s designed specifically for Johnston’s needs as a double-amputee.
“It’s the nicest house I’ve ever lived in or will live in,” Johnston said. “(It’s) far above my level of understanding, all of this fancy stuff.”
The house features wide-open hallways and large bathrooms, making it easier for Johnston to get around while in a wheelchair. The stove can be electronically raised and lowered for both wheelchair and standing positions, as Johnston often gets around with the help of his prosthetic leg.
“(I’m) humbled,” Johnston said. “It’s really great to see the people that came out to support me, that they’ve never met me and don’t know much, but they care.”
The home was built with the help of several local contractors, Home Depot, and many volunteers all organized through the Steven Siller Tunnel2Towers Foundation.
The charity was inspired by the many firefighters, police, and servicemen who helped after the events of 9/11. Now it helps veterans who have been catastrophically injured, like Johnston, get into mortgage-free smart homes that help with their specific needs. Now an ambassador for the organization, Jennie Taylor, the widow of former North Ogden Mayor, Maj. Brent Taylor, had her mortgage paid off after her husband was killed in Afghanistan.
“It’s just remarkable to think that there are people out there that can take tragedy and turn it into goodness,” Taylor said. “(To) take this catastrophic injury of Brian’s, and you create a reason to celebrate, and that’s just a beautiful thing.”
Johnston was injured by a IED that exploded just next to a vehicle he was riding in while he served in Iraq in 2004. Fifteen years later, the self-described man of few words writes off his injury as a simple bad day at work.
“I feel like I’ve learned so much from just watching him,” Taylor said. “He doesn’t sulk. He doesn’t seem bitter. He doesn’t seem angry. He’s waited 15 years to have a home that could accommodate his needs.”
Johnston is from Connecticut but moved to Utah several years ago to be near his mother and brother’s family, who had all moved here.
“I never thought something this wonderful would ever happen to me,” Johnston said. “I’m so grateful that I was able to meet these guys with Tunnel2Towers.”