Nearly a decade since U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Sgt. Rob Jones lost both of his legs in combat, he and his wife are moving into the rural home they’ve been yearning for.
More than 100 people traveled to a 13-acre property north of Middleburg on Thursday morning to witness a ceremony in which the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation dedicated a 2,833-square-foot, mortgage-free smart home to Jones, a 2003 Loudoun Valley High School graduate and Lovettsville native. In attendance were Loudoun County deputies, first responders from the county’s Combined Fire and Rescue System, Middleburg Mayor Bridge Littleton and representatives from the companies that made the house-building project possible, including The Home Depot, Serta and Mohawk Flooring.
For nearly an hour, close to a dozen speakers took to the microphone on stage to commend Jones and his wife, Pam, for their sacrifice.
Littleton praised the Tunnel to Towers Foundation for being a “transformative organization,” noting that “the most special thing is seeing everyone here from the community.” He told Jones that it was encouraging he chose Middleburg as his home and that he could ask the town for help any time.
Middleburg American Legion Post 295 Vice Commander John Moliere also made Jones an honorary member of the post, while John Ponte, the director of the foundation’s Smart Home Program, presented Jones with a piece of structure that fell from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Jones told the crowd that he and Pam were going to “live in happiness” in their new home. “We’re going to raise our kids here … and when the time comes, we’re going to die here,” he said. “We plan to live here forever.”
Emotions didn’t kick in until the couple stepped through the front door of their new home for the first time. Once they walked into the kitchen and saw the assortment of handicap-accessible features, like the adjustable-height stovetop, tears began to run down Pam’s face.
Trevor Tamsen, the foundation’s assistant manager of media relations, said the couple would most likely move out of the apartment they’ve rented in Leesburg since last summer and into the smart home by next week.
Jones’ smart home also features automated doors and lighting, wider halls and doorways, a wheelchair-accessible shower, automatic door openers, back-up generators, a central heating and air conditioning system that can be controlled remotely and adjustable-height cabinets and counters.
The smart home is the second the foundationhas built in Loudoun. In 2015, it dedicated a Lovettsville-area smart home to Marine Corps Cpl. Tony Porta.
The Jones’ move into the smart home will come the same week that Pam, along with her friend Sarah Waybright, will launch Gathering Springs Farm, which will see the duo selling produce on the property and selling it for the first time at the Middleburg Community Farmers’ Market next Saturday, May 4.
Jones enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2005, was assigned to the Bravo Company, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion and was deployed to Habbaniyah, Iraq in 2008 and Delaram/Sangin, Afghanistan in 2010. In July that year, he lost both of his legs above the knee in a landmine explosion while pushing into Taliban territory.
Since then, he’s made the most of his situation by continuing his rigorous physical training regimen, just with a different focus.
In 2012, he and his rowing partner won the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta in Belgrade to qualify for the London 2012 Paralympics.
There, he and his U.S. rowing team not only won a bronze medal for mixed double sculls, but Jones also met Pam—the winner of the gold medal for the mixed cox four LTA for Great Britain.
A year later, Jones solo-cycled 5,180 miles across America from Maine to California in a six-month span and raised $126,000 for three charities that aid wounded veterans—the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and the Ride 2 Recovery.
In 2017, Jones ran 31 marathons in 31 days in 31 different cities, beginning on Oct. 12 in London and ending on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, in Washington, DC—a total of 812.2 miles in a one-month span. In doing so, he and his team also raised more than $200,000 for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was created in 2001 to honor the memory of New York City Firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller, who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
The name for the foundation comes straight from Siller’s actions that day 18 years ago, when he ran with 60 pounds of equipment from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which had been closed for security purposes, to save lives in the Twin Towers.
The foundation operates several programs that aid first responders and military veterans who have been wounded in the line of duty. The foundation holds runs, walks and tower climbs in addition to building homes for veterans and their families.
The Smart Home Program has delivered 49 homes to 24 Army veterans, 21 Marine veterans, three Navy veterans and one Air Force veteran. The foundation is in the process of building 24 more smart homes, two of which will be dedicated to veterans living in Virginia.
Jones was the keynote speaker during Loudoun Valley High School’s annual Veteran’s Day program in 2012 and shared his experiences with the students.