"While we have time, let us do good”

HOWELL, NJ -- Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04)  joined representatives from the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, local elected officials, members of law enforcement and local veterans, in honoring United States Marine Corporal Scott Nokes.  Nokes was chosen by Tunnel to Towers Foundation to be a recipient of a brand new smart home, mortgage free.

Scott A. Nokes, is a hero to so many.  Nokes has twice saved someone’s life. As a volunteer firefighter, he once rescued a boy from a fire. In a second incidence, Nokes saved a fellow student while attending a ROTC camp. As a Corporal and rifleman in the Marines, assigned to 1/8 Charlie Company, Nokes was twice deployed to Afghanistan. While on his second deployment, Scott developed dysentery, which led to unresolved GI issues, sepsis and the eventual amputation of both of his legs below the knee. Nokes also suffered the loss of his vision.

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The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation chose to honor and to support Nokes and this new chapter in his life with a custom-designed smart home. These homes enable severely injured heroes live more comfortable and independent lives.

Nokes just in time for the Christmas holiday received the keys from the foundation to a new “smart home” which was built specifically for him and his needs as a blind double amputee resulting from an infection he received during his service to the U.S. while in Afghanistan.

The 2,800 square foot home is located in Howell, NJ. It has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and smart amenities such as a fully automatic toilet that has a seat that lifts as someone approaches it. The seat is also heated, has auto flushing and cleaning features.

The kitchen is equipped for easier cooking when in a wheelchair and has various built in smart technology conveniences. Both the front door and the door to the garage are automatic. The lighting in each room is designed to shine a different color as Nokes can partially see different color hues. 

It took six months and 700 people to complete the project. 

In 2003, Smith authored the Veterans Benefit Act (PL 108-183) that increased government funding to $50,000 for Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) programs for severely disabled service members. The SAH government program helps veterans like Cpl. Nokes live independently but doesn’t cover the entire cost of home ownership. Nokes home is reported to have cost around $500,000.  That’s where the Tunnels to Towers Foundations stepped in. Through a strong and committed network of donors and corporate partners, the Tunnels to Towers Foundation conveyed the home to Cpl. Nokes free of mortgage. An avid hiker and camper Nokes is currently working to complete his college degree majoring in history, homeland security and becoming literate in Braille and hopes to develop a career in peer mentorship.

No one deserves this more than Corporal Nokes,” Smith said.  “He is a courageous marine with an indomitable spirit.”  

Every great foundation has a story behind it. So who is Stephen Siller of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation?   Firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller was the youngest of seven children born to Mae and George Siller. At the age of eight, Stephen lost his father, and a year and a half later his mother passed away, leaving him an orphan to be raised by his older siblings. For a while Stephen went through a period of struggle, but thanks to the love of his siblings, and the values instilled in him by his parents, he grew up to be an extraordinary individual and dedicated firefighter. More than most, he knew that time was precious and accomplished much in his 34 years.

On September 11, 2001, Stephen, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Upon hearing the news, Stephen called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear.

Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 lbs. of gear to his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others.

Stephen had everything to live for; a great wife, five wonderful children, a devoted extended family, and friends. Stephen’s parents were lay Franciscans and he grew up under the guiding philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi, whose encouraging and inspirational phrase “while we have time, let us do good” were words that Stephen lived by. Stephen’s life and heroic death serve as a reminder to us all to live life to the fullest and to spend our time here on earth doing good – this is his legacy.

Author and family friend Jay Price wrote: “Every momentous event, even a tragedy, has its symbolic figures. September 11th was no different; it just had a few more of them. Rudy Giuliani, Father Mychal Judge, the four guys on United Flight 9 … a hundred more … a thousand. None bigger than Stephen Siller, whose stature only grows with time as New Yorkers and people from around the world follow his footsteps.”

To learn more about the Tunnel to Towers Foundation or to make a donation, click here.