CEDAR FALLS — Taylor and Danielle Morris received some “forever” wishes for their “forever” home at a special observance Tuesday morning.
Taylor Morris, the former Navy bomb disposal expert who lost portions of all four limbs in a May 2012 bomb blast in Afghanistan, and his wife, Danielle, were feted by the Gary Sinise Foundation, which raised money to build an iPad-operated “smart home” to accommodate Taylor’s disabilities.
Actor Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band staged a benefit concert for the couple in August 2013 at Gateway Park. Construction began earlier this year. Completion is anticipated early next year.
The Sinise Foundation marked the halfway point of the home’s construction with a “Walls of Honor” ceremony. People wrote well wishes to Taylor and Danielle on studs of the home, along the Cedar River east of American Martyrs Retreat House off North Union Road. Sinise was not present, but issued a message that was transcribed on a stud.
“Anyone could come in and write their well wishes, their name, any messages to us, so that they’ll always be with the house,” Danielle said. “They’ll sheet rock over them in a couple of weeks and those messages will stay forever.”
“It’s a good event to highlight the local contractors, as well as (the Sinise Foundation’s) nationwide network, what they have contributed to the project,” Taylor said.
The project has special significance for Stuart Brecunier of Denver, president of Advanced Refinishers of Dunkerton, a subcontractor working on the house for general contractor Wayne Magee Construction of Cedar Falls. His son, Justin, an Iraq War veteran, is an explosive ordnance disposal expert like Taylor. Another son, Keith, is just entering the program. His son was one of a group of EOD experts who recently volunteered to work on the Morrises’ home.
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“It’s quite the brotherhood” Brecunier said. “I’ve got my oldest and my youngest doing the same thing Taylor is doing. They do all the things most sane people don’t do. They jump out of perfectly good airplanes and deep-sea dive at depths that would mess up most people. I’m just darn proud of them. There’s got to be people in those positions, the people like Taylor and my son. We need those kind of people in there, so they (terrorists) aren’t over here.
“I don’t care if I make a dime,” doing the work,” Brecunier said. “There’s more than money, you know? I’m just glad they can have such a nice place to settle in.”
Contractors are working hard to finish the project.
“I don’t think anyone’s putting more pressure on them than themselves because they’re eager to get us in here,” said Danielle, a real estate agent.
“It’s a really special day,” Taylor said. “It’s great to see the halfway point.”
Scott Schaeperkoetter of the Sinise Foundation said, “We invite the public out — donors, friends, family — to come out and write words of encouragement and gratitude on the studs. Those words will remain there for as long as the house stands.”
The Sinise foundation teamed up with the Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, named for a New York City firefighter killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, to raise funds for the Morris home, as well as other post-9/11 multiple-amputee veterans.
“We’ll come out tomorrow night and read through everyone’s messages,” Danielle said.