Community welcomes Purple Heart recipient, wife into new 'Smart Home'

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This past Sunday morning, Corey and Brandy Kent were given the keys to their new home in Northwest Cape Coral.

While a couple moving into their new house may be a significant event in their lives, it is not typically an occasion that creates news or a buzz around the community.

However, this was not the case for the newlywed couple or the packed crowd, who showed up Sunday morning for a special ceremony to welcome them to their new "high-tech" home.

The couple was welcomed to their new neighborhood by hundreds packing their front yard, the Mariner High School Band making their way up the street, and city and county officials in attendance at the affair.

Most significantly about the ceremony, was the fact it was being held on September 11, and the home was revealed in dramatic fashion at precisely 9:59am, the exact minute of the attack on the first tower in New York City 15 years ago to the day.

That day in 2011 would play a significant role in the life of Corey, even though as a middle school student on the day of the attack, he wasn’t quite old enough to fully understand the significance of what was happening. However, that changed as he grew older and after graduating Mariner High School, Kent enlisted in the United States Army and soon found himself in the middle of America's battle against terrorism.

On July 12, 2010, while serving in the 101st Airborne unit stationed in Afghanistan, Corey was wounded when he stepped on an IED that exploded underneath him. Miraculously, he survived the explosion but, suffered the loss of both his legs and fingers from his left hand and spent the next several years enduring over 70 operations and grueling rehabilitation.

Now, over six years since that ill-fated day, now retired as an Army Sergeant, Corey has continued to build a life beyond the explosion.

A step in that process for Corey has been the reconnection of he and Brandy, a classmate when he attended Mariner High School. Not only did he and Brandy reconnect, but also got engaged, and were married in a private ceremony on July 12 of this year. Choosing the same date that he was injured, as the day of his wedding was another step for Corey, as well as moving into their new home on September 11, "I kind of wanted to give that day a positive meaning and not just focus on the negative. And now this day has the same effect."

Now, happily married, Corey, along with Brandy took the next step in that journey on Sunday, as they moved into their new home specially equipped to meet Corey's unique needs.

 
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Built by Aubuchon Homes, the "smart home" allows the Kents to control many of the everyday functions electronically with a smartphone or tablet. Such things as opening doors, windows, and more can be done with a touch of a button. Also, the home was built with wide hallways, doors, and appliances and cabinetry made to allow Corey to open while remaining in his wheelchair.

In fact, with many of the kitchen appliances in arm's reach for her husband, Brandy says she is looking to home cooked meals from her new husband more frequently, "Right now I probably do a good portion of all the things around the house, cooking, cleaning. I think it will make it so much easier for us. It will be a big change for him to cook and do all the things he was able to do before. It will be a big deal for him to cook."

Sunday was the first opportunity, the Kents have had to see the home in over two months. As the giant American flag was peeled back and the home revealed, both Corey and Brandy stared in amazement that only got bigger as they were given a tour of the inside of the home, "It is all so surreal. The last time we saw it there were just studs," says Corey.

Seeing the look on the couple's faces was a particularly proud moment for Aubuchon Homes' CEO Gary Aubuchon, who spearheaded the project from its inception, "I can't tell you what an honor it has been to be part of this project. My team knows this has been the most meaningful project we have ever worked on. We have done a few things in the community but, nothing as meaningful as this."

It was Aubuchon who first contacted the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation about becoming involved in the project. The non-profit organization, named after a New York City Firefighter who was killed when the towers collapsed on 9/11, provides funding to build homes for soldiers who were severely wounded during their service. Shortly after meeting with Aubuchon, the organization agreed to fund the home and planning for the new home began.

Efforts by all those involved culminated on Sunday as many responsible for the home's construction and furnishing were in attendance at the ceremony. Foundation COO John Hodge, and cousin of Stephen Siller, told those in attendance that the house makes 56 homes the organization has provided for veterans since being created, and added that he was impressed by the dedication of the community here in Cape Coral, "The patriotism that was displayed by the kids that were there that day was very emotional," Hodges said, referencing the large turnout at the ceremony held for Kent in February at Mariner High School. "In fact, we ended up putting that on a lot of videos quite honestly. When you have over 2,000 kids waving American flags, it doesn’t get any better than that."

In addition to Hodge, Siller's older brother was also in attendance and read a poem dedicated to his brother's memory. Representatives from Home Depot, Carpet One, and other businesses, who donated materials and labor for the project were also there to help the Corey and Brandy usher in their new home.

Most impressive was the large number of members of the community who made their way to the event Sunday morning to show their support for Cape Coral's hometown hero, "Seeing all these people here today really personifies the community spirit we have here in Cape Coral. We may not always agree with each other but, when we see one of our own in need, we come together as one community," said Cape Coral City Council Member Jessica Cosden, who along with fellow Council Member Richard Leon were on hand to represent the City of Cape Coral.

As the ceremony concluded and the crowd thinned, Corey says he is looking forward to settling into the new home with Brandy, and expressed appreciation to all those who made the latest step in their journey possible, "That fact that it (the community support) has carried on for five, six years now still blows me away. We are just so thankful. We can never thank people enough for what they have done."

For more information about the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, visit www.tunnel2towers.org.