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Friday, May 26, 2017
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Zachary Parker, a former Army medic, was welcomed to his new home Tuesday. (Rick Hickman/American Press)

Zachary Parker, a former Army medic, was welcomed to his new home Tuesday. (Rick Hickman/American Press)

Building for America's Bravest: 'Smart home' for local wounded vet

Last Modified: Wednesday, March 29, 2017 8:14 AM

By Lindsay Huth / American Press

GILLIS — Zachary Parker, a triple-amputee and veteran, was welcomed to his newly constructed “smart home” on Deer Run Road on Tuesday, courtesy of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

Parker, a former Army medic, was near the end of his yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in June 2012 when he stepped on a roadside bomb, losing both legs and his left arm in the blast.

As a catastrophically injured veteran, Parker was selected by Tunnel to Towers’ Building for America’s Bravest program to receive a custom-built, handicap-accessible home, the organization’s 56th nationwide.

After a dedication ceremony and flag raising in the front yard, Parker and his wife, Misty, received the first tour of their house’s many “smart” features: automated doors, a height-adjustable stovetop, motorized blinds and a microwave that pulls out like a drawer.

The hallways are wide, and Parker spun his wheelchair in circles in his oversized shower.

Parker’s first reaction? “In full awe. Lost. Amazed, honestly. Speechless,” he said.

Parker said the final result was “a million times better” than he’d imagined.

“We got to pick everything out — the colors and the choice of furniture and everything — but seeing it all together is just amazing,” he said after the tour.

Tunnel to Towers was founded in honor of Stephen Siller, a New York firefighter who perished during the collapse of the South Tower on 9/11.

“Without 9/11, Zach Parker would not have been in harm’s way,” chief operating officer John Hodge said at the ceremony. “So we’ve made it our obligation to provide homes for veterans like him.”

The organization builds 15 fully furnished homes each year for injured first responders and service members, Hodge said.

“I cannot wait to dive in, bring all my personal stuff here, too, and make the home our home,” Parker said.

But first, he planned to fire up his wheelchair-accessible grill, marking a return to a favorite pastime — cooking.

“Right over there,” he pointed toward the patio. “Tonight!”

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