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    Tunnel to Towers comes to Afghanistan

    Tunnel to Towers comes to Afghanistan

    Photo By Sgt. Clay Beyersdorfer | One of the firefighter teams gets ready to start the “Tunnel to Towers” five...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer 

    70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – It was a milestone day at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 14, as “Tunnel to Towers,” a nonprofit organization that benefits firefighters and wounded armed forces service members, came to KAF for the first time.

    Armed forces personnel, firefighters and civilian contractors on KAF had the opportunity to run or walk in a 5K race in remembrance of the victims of Sept. 11, 2001, and the story of Stephen Siller, a firefighter who also lost his life that day.

    Following a night shift at Squad 1, Park Slope, Brooklyn, Siller had planned to spend Sept. 11 golfing with his brothers.

    When his scanner started buzzing with news of the first of the Twin Towers being hit, Siller called his wife and told her he would be late coming home that morning because he had to help those in need.

    He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear and drove his truck towards the World Trade Center before a traffic jam at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel stopped him.

    With 60 pounds of gear strapped to his back, he ran through the tunnel, hoping to meet up with his own company. Siller lost his life trying to save others that day and shortly thereafter, the Tunnel to Towers foundation was created. Ever since the Sept. 11 attacks, the foundation sponsors and hosts races around the U.S. to help raise money in partnership with the Gary Sinise Foundation for firefighters, policemen, and members of the armed forces who have been injured during their service.

    The money raised goes toward building “smart homes,” which are custom designed and specially adapted houses for catastrophically injured American service members. Depending on the injury of each specific service member, smart homes can include such features as automated doors and lighting, wider doors, special showers to accommodate wheelchairs, and cabinets and counters that are adjustable for reach.

    Sgt. Sharmella Andrews, the logistics and supply noncommissioned officer in charge of Detachment 33, Signal Command, Theater Provisional, of East Point, Ga., currently serving on KAF, had an instrumental part in bringing the foundation to Afghanistan.

    “I really wanted to organize a run here and once I found out about this foundation, I knew I had my purpose,” Andrews said. “It is a great cause and a great opportunity to raise awareness and help out those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

    Andrews coordinated the run and had awards for the winners in both male and female divisions.

    The categories included the run, walk, run heavy (which included running in full gear), as well as a team-run category, where all members of the team had to finish together in order to complete the race.

    Two service members ran the race in explosive ordnance disposal suits, which are roughly 80 pounds.

    In addition to the race, Daniel Rodriguez, a musical artist who is widely known as “The Singing Policeman,” or “America’s Tenor,” flew in from the U.S. to sing “God Bless America” before the start of the race.

    Rodriguez is active with the Tunnel to Towers foundation, due in part to his service as a New York City police officer, and watched firsthand the events that transpired Sept. 11, 2001.

    He spoke about that day and the difference the Tunnel to Towers foundation is making nationwide.

    “It was a day that will forever go down in history and tore so many people’s lives apart,” Rodriguez said. “Seeing the Twin Towers fall that day was a moment that still gives me chills, but I always remember that day when I perform. At the end of the day, this whole idea is about giving back to those who serve.”

    Rodriguez has performed on various networks and television shows including the “Today Show,” “The Early Show,” “Larry King Live,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and events like the Indianapolis 500, and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

    Accompanying Rodriguez was Christopher Kubin, who also works with Tunnel to Towers. He spoke about the importance of the foundation and the event held Sept. 14.

    “The impact we have had on the injured service members over the last few years has been amazing,” Kubin said. “It’s great that we have been able to give back to those individuals who have given our country so much.”

    Even though the anniversary of Sept. 11 occurred a few days prior, Andrews said running the race on Sept. 14 was the “right way to do things.”

    “September 11 is for remembering and reflection on the events and those who lost their lives that day,” Andrews said. “Today was about honoring those who are currently serving and the sacrifices they make.”

    As the sun fully rose, the run ended and awards were presented.
    Winning the race was not the victory on Saturday, however.

    “We accomplished our goal today, which was raising awareness and celebrating the progress we have made over the last 12 years,” Andrews said. “It was great we had so much support and I am so glad that all these people came out.”



    Date Taken: 09.14.2013
    Date Posted: 09.16.2013 04:38
    Story ID: 113682
    Hometown: EAST POINT, GA, US

    Web Views: 1,235
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