FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Five Gold Star families in Fayetteville now have their homes paid for by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
The five soldiers were based at Fort Bragg and were in their early 30 when they were killed while serving our country.
They each left behind wives and young children.
CW3 Christopher Allgaier’s boots sit on the front porch of his family’s Fayetteville home.
“These boots had gone to Afghanistan with him, and they came back in his boxes,” his widow Jennifer Allgaier said.
Jennifer Allgaier and her three daughters moved into the home shortly after the helicopter Christopher was piloting was shot down in Afghanistan on May 30, 2007.
Thanks to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Jennifer’s dream home is paid off.
“We don’t feel forgotten, we feel like somebody cares about us,” Allgaier said. “It just opens up so many things for me that I didn’t think would be possible before.”
“One thing that has bothered me since the day that my husband died, we have three daughters and I always thought he’s not going to be here to walk them down the aisle on their wedding day,” Allgaier said. “This makes me feel like I can give them a nice wedding.”
The foundation was started in honor of New York City Firefighter Stephen Siller.
Siller was a 34-year-old father of five when he was killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“He died along with 342 other New York City firefighters trying to save lives that morning,” said Retired NYFD Battalion Commander Jack Oehm.
Nancy Gass was stationed at Fort Bragg when her husband Staff Sgt. Jerry Gass Jr. was killed in Afghanistan in 2014.
“My kids had just turned one and two, it was inexplicable,” Gass said. “”My husband was my best friend, he was my soulmate.”
The foundation paid off Nancy Gass’ home a few years ago.
Today she’s back in Fayetteville working with the foundation to present more families with a paid-off home.
“It feels like the best thing in the world, after going through traumatic loss, it’s such a light on the other side of darkness,” Gass said. “The only thing better than receiving a mortgage free home is getting to tell someone else that they’re going to get a mortgage-free home.”
Jessica Hess’ husband Staff Sgt. Jacob Hess was killed two years ago during a training mission.
Their youngest daughter was just 3-months-old at the time.
“As a widowed single parent, providing on my own has been rough to say the least,” Hess said. “Tunnel to Towers has taken away the heavy burden from my shoulders.”
The non-profit foundation hosted a ceremony for the families at the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum.
“I’m 33, so to be a homeowner at my age and not have to worry about that and really be able to reinvest into my kids and reinvest into our lives now, it’s just incredible,” Hess said. “The kindness of strangers is just incredible to me, and I’m really grateful.”
The other families honored in today’s events are the families of Staff Sgt. Kyu “Q” Chay, Sgt. 1st Class Shawn McCloskey and Sgt. 1st Class Keith Callahan.
In addition to paying off mortgages, Tunnel to Towers also helps modify homes of wounded veterans and first responders who have been injured in the line of duty.