NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A modern-day “band of brothers,” nine soldiers and Marines who survived catastrophic injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, spent part of their Independence Day remembering the bravery of others.
Marine Sgt. Ben Tomlinson is paralyzed with limited mobility below his chest.
“I got shot in the neck by a sniper during an ambush,” he told WCBS 880’s Ginny Kosola.
Placing a flag at the 9/11 memorial site, Tomlinson came to remember those who lost their lives on Sept. 11 and first responders like Stephen Siller, who died that day.
“Just a good reminder of the patriotism that gets displayed by people in this country and guys who step up to certain challenges when they come,” he said.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation organized the event for the soldiers and Marines, most of them are in wheelchairs.
“My brother, along with first responders were the first casualties in the war on terror. These guys have carried the torch since then” George Siller said.
Chairman Frank Siller said the vets also gathered next to the “Survivor Tree, which stood tall after the collapse of the Twin Towers.
“Most of them didn’t know the story of the tree and when we were explaining it them, they were moved by the story,” he told 1010 WINS. “They went to war because of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.”
“Very emotional. This is where it all started,” Staff Sgt. Rusty Dunagan told CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock.
“A little overwhelming. I’ve never been so this brings back a lot of memories,” said Army soldier Kevin Trimble.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation has built or is in the process of building new “smart homes” for all nine of the injured vets in conjunction with the Gary Sinise Foundation.
The homes include customized bathrooms and kitchens and several other high-tech features, all operated by an iPad, to help the injured veterans be more independent.
The veterans’ day will conclude Friday with a front row seat to view the fireworks display at Liberty State Park.
For more information, visit tunnel2towers.org.
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