Local News

March 4, 2014

Helping ‘America’s bravest’

Mohawk teams with other organizations to provide homes for wounded veterans

CALHOUN — Todd Love was afraid at any minute he might be killed.

It was Afghanistan, May 2010.

Five days into his time there with the Marine Corps, shots were fired at Love. To cope with the fear of death, he made lists of activities he wanted to do when he returned home, restaurants where he wanted to eat and places he wanted to go.

Love eventually became responsible for leading a group of men through Afghanistan.

“I started thinking I very well may die,” said Love, originally from Marietta. “I made my peace. I had to be comfortable with the idea of potentially dying. ... I was expecting to get blown up.”

And he was.

He stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device), which sent him flying for several yards — without his legs. Both of his legs from the waist down were blown off in the explosion, and he also lost part of his left arm.

When he woke up in a hospital in Germany several days later, Love was just happy to be alive. He didn’t know what his quality of life would be like with only one limb, but “chose to believe things would be all right.”

And they are, he says now, and they’re about to get better. Love is about to receive what he needs to live more independently. He is the recipient of one of 46 Smart Homes that will be built during the next three years by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Tower Foundation’s program Building for America’s Bravest. Love’s home will be in the Atlanta area.

The program is for veterans who have lost three or four of their limbs while serving their country. Homes are tailored for each veteran’s specific needs, helping them maintain their independence. For Love, that means he will have wireless thermostat control, cabinet shelves that lower at the push of a button and more easily accessible bath and shower. And it means he can learn to cook for himself thanks to a stove that he can roll his wheelchair under.

The veterans get to choose the community in which they want to live, get to help pick out the land, and work with the architect to design the home.

Flooring for the homes will be provided free of charge by Mohawk Industries. Instillation is by Carpet One. The Gary Sinise Foundation, which honors veterans and first responders, is also a partner in the project.

The project was celebrated Tuesday in conjunction with a 9/11 mobile exhibit by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Tower Foundation which was open for all of Mohawk’s employees in northwest Georgia who served in the military, as well as first responders in the area and other Mohawk employees.

“Mohawk is proud to improve the lives of these men who stood up for us,” said CEO Jeff Lorberbaum. “Every company and individual has an obligation to support these men. ... We’re creating a comfortable environment. We’re delighted to do our part to ensure these families live comfortably.”

The Stephen Siller Tunnel To Tower Foundation was started by Stephen’s brother, Frank Siller. Stephen Siller was a New York City firefighter who died on Sept. 11, 2001, while responding to the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center towers.

“We’re here remembering tragedy but celebrating triumph,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk. “They saw an essential group who had specific needs. They’re building for America’s bravest. ... Todd Love is very special in our eyes. Floorcovering is just a small component.”

Frank Siller said he had “no choice” but to take his devastation and turn it into something positive.

People are faced daily with how to respond to a situation, Siller said, and he believed that since his brother gave his life to help others, he had no choice but to help others as well. Stephen Siller was leaving work to play golf with a few of his brothers when the call came in. So he returned to work and had to run through the Battery Tunnel to the towers because the tunnels had been closed to traffic.

 “He laid his life on the line,” Frank Siller said. “I wonder what was on his mind. People were running away from it. He was running toward it. Firefighters always run toward it and put their life on the line.”

The foundation helped families who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks, but then broadened its focus to help this group of veterans.

“I can’t help but stop and think of the greatness of this country, Mohawk and Carpet One,” Frank Siller said. “We can’t do it by ourselves. I’m fortunate to meet the best of what this country has to offer.”

Love said Frank Siller has become a mentor to him.

“You can provide a great service to your country without being in the military, police or fire departments,” Love said. “It makes me proud to be an American.”

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