GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Army Sargent Jonathan Harmon joined the Army as soon as he turned 18 years old. He comes from a family with an extensive military history, but joined for a different reason: the September 11 attacks on America.
"This day 18 years ago changed my life forever," Harmon said. "I was really young when the towers fell, so I had to wait several years before I could enlist and serve my country. I wanted to hurt them the way they hurt us."
Less than a year after joining the Army, June 7, 2012, Harmon was on his first deployment in Afghanistan when he was hit by an IED.
"After several months of intense combat operations, my luck kind of ran out," Harmon said. "I ended up stepping on a pressure blade IED, resulting in the amputation of both my legs."
Harmon immediately lost his right leg after stepping on the IED. Surgeons tried to safe his left, but the damage done was so severe they decided to have it amputated.
But this injury didn't stop Harmon from serving his country. He was released from the hospital after two months of recovery, and slowly had to learn how to perform day-to-day tasks again.
"I went from an Alpha apex predator on the battlefield, to a 19-year-old that could barely wheel himself to physical therapy," Harmon said.
After 14 months, Harmon was able to regain the function and ability necessary to go back to work. In 2014, he was accepted to the Continuation of Active Duty program, where he mentored his fellow paratroopers.
Harmon retired in March 2019 and is currently attending Montgomery College, finishing up his STEM degree. Harmon is planning to transfer to the University of Maryland next fall to pursue a degree in nutritional science.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation, created to honor the memory of a firefighter with FDNY who died saving others on September 11 -- Stephen Siller -- welcomed Harmon into his custom-built, mortgage-free smart home in Gaithersburg on Wednesday.
The home is built to help Harmon live as independently as possible. It's wheelchair accessible, has wide hallways, over-sized doorways and hardwood floors. The home has kitchen cabinet shelving designed to allow easy access to tableware, a mechanized lift that lets the stove be raised and lowered to wheelchair height, customized bathrooms and automated doors and security.
"This smart home will allow us to live out all of our future endeavors in a structure specifically modified to combat the mobility issues a double amputee can have," Harmon said. "I'm truly at a loss for words at what a generous and unbelievable gift this is."
To date, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation has delivered, started working on or is in the design phase of 85 smart homes around the country, the press release said.
"The Tunnel to Towers Foundation believes our nation's veterans deserve to live in homes free from financial and physical hardships," a press release said. "The Smart Home Program gives these heroes the physical freedom to live independently and the financial freedom to pursue their passions."