CEDAR FALLS — Taylor and Danielle Morris are home — in a place they can call their own.
On Thursday, nearly six years after Taylor was badly injured in a bomb blast in Afghanistan, the Morrises officially moved into their iPad-controlled smart home designed to accommodate Taylor’s disabilities.
“We’re super, super excited about it and super grateful for everyone who supported it along the way. Definitely ready to move in,” Taylor said.
“It’s been a long time coming, but I will say that it’s been an enjoyable process,” Danielle said. “The wait has made everything a little more enjoyable to see on this side of things, as far as moving in. It makes everything more exciting.”
Construction of the home, on a picturesque overlook of the Cedar River near American Martyrs Retreat house, began last summer. Wayne Magee Construction of Cedar Falls was project contractor. It followed a massive fundraising effort involving the foundation of actor Gary Sinise and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, as well as numerous veterans organizations and the local community.
Representatives of those organizations, contractors, friends, representatives of military and veterans organizations and the couple’s extended families gathered outside the home Thursday to celebrate.
The Morrises raised the flag outside their house and media cameras recorded their entrance into the home as they showed off its rooms and features.
They lived at Taylor’s parents house in western Cedar Falls almost four years following Taylor’s rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
The couple took their time finding the right location. Taylor and Danielle first looked at the property in 2013. It was overgrown with vegetation, but they had a vision of its potential.
“We probably got it cleared mid-summer 2017,” Taylor said. “That was when we really realized, ‘Wow.’”
“It surpassed what we even thought it was going to look like,” Danielle said.
An open floor plan minimizes hallways, making the house more accessible. It also maximizes scenic views of the river.
They praised the work of Deb Waterman of Magee Construction, the project manager.
“We made sure, anytime we asked the Magee team about an expected finish date, to follow up that with, ‘Take your time. We want everything done right,’ Taylor said. “... They’ve done an amazing job.”
Taylor Morris, a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal expert, lost portions of all four limbs in May 2012 as he was trying to clear an area of explosives for a unit of U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers. He rehabilitated at Walter Reed with Danielle at his side. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
The Morrises, both 29, are 2007 graduates of Cedar Falls High School. The couple wed in October 2015.
In addition to the numerous subcontractors, a crew of Navy explosive ordinance disposal experts provided volunteer labor. Both Taylor’s and Danielle’s extended families did landscaping work.
The community support has not wavered.
“From day one at the hospital back in May 2012, we have felt the community rallied behind us, and it hasn’t lessened,” Danielle said.
“We’re excited to pay that forward,” Taylor said, “locally and wherever there’s good causes, we’re excited to get into that and help where we can.”
The couple plans on resuming their “Glowstick 5K” benefit fundraiser this fall, which they did for several years.
“The Glowstick run is our baby and we want to spend a lot of time with that,” Danielle said. Funds from the event go to various community projects.
They’re also involved with “Honoring the Sacrifice,” a nonprofit organization helping post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients.
The couple’s story gained national attention, but their travels have subsided and they’re enjoying spending time in Cedar Falls. Danielle, with a bachelor’s degree and an MBA, is a real estate agent.
Taylor graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in December with a bachelor’s degree in business management.
“He was on the dean’s list every single semester,” Danielle said with a smile. “I’ll brag on him because I know he won’t.”
He’s involved with the Cedar Valley Makers, a nonprofit entrepreneurial-educational group operating out of a “maker space” on the Cedar Valley TechWorks campus.
They also have a “to do” list after moving in and plan to enjoy their space.
“Everything is done perfectly and we love the entire space. But we are definitely project people.”
Jim Shubert, a board member of the Gary Sinise Foundation and a Vietnam veteran, was on hand for the moving-in ceremony.
“This is just a very joyful moment. ... There’s been a lot of discussion about people that have participated here, and what a great job they have done. ... But sir,” he said to Taylor, “there is no equal to you. I love both of you. You deserve this home.”
Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band, named for his Oscar-winning role as a disabled veteran in the movie “Forrest Gump,” played at a benefit concert for the couple in Cedar Falls in August 2013.
Sinise himself plans a private personal visit in a few months. In a letter to he couple, he said, “Your courage has been deeply inspiring. ... This is your day. Enjoy it. You and your family deserve all good things.”