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Injured JBLM veteran gets smart home in Issaquah

A former Joint Base Lewis McChord soldier who lost three limbs in Afghanistan has a new home in Issaquah — a smart home, thanks to a foundation for fallen 9/11 firefighters.

RELATED: Thanking a veteran on Memorial Day

Major Edward “Flip” Klein has survived more than most of us could even imagine, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. It was during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2012 that Klein stepped on an IED while leading a patrol. He lost both legs, his right arm, and three of his fingers on his left hand.

But the West Point grad never gave up, fought to survive, and got back to doing the things he loves. It was an emotional tribute on Friday as Major Klein was surrounded by veterans and local police officers in Issaquah where he received the gift of a lifetime — a brand new, mortgage free, smart home nestled in the woods of Issaquah.

Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation

The 3,300-square-foot home was donated by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation — set up in honor of firefighter Stephen Siller, who died in the South Tower on 9/11.

John Hodge is Stephen Siller’s cousin. He was there to present Major Klein with his new home Friday and explained their mission.

“As family members, and more particularly his brothers and sisters to start with, did not want to let his [Siller] memory parish in the collapse of that South Tower along with all the other first responders that day,” Hodge said. “We wanted to make sure that his family — all of his children, he left behind five children — wanted to make sure they knew he was a hero. So we started the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and we’re on our 17th year now, and we’ve been able to do a lot of really wonderful things.”

Those wonderful things include helping first responders, service members and their families in a variety of ways — including building and donating smart homes to severely injured service members.

“It’s interesting because a lot of times people say ‘How does a 9/11 organization wind up building homes for injured service members?’ It’s not a direct line so it doesn’t always make sense, but there actually is a direct line if you think about it,” Hodge said. “And here’s the direct line. If September 11th had never happened, Major Edward ‘Flip’ Klein would not have been in harms way and would have never gotten injured.”

Smart home

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation has built 75 smart homes so far with a goal of 200. On Friday, it was all about Major Klein’s home. As he flanked the stage with his fiance, Kim, and service dog, Bear, near his side, Major Klein shared a few with the crowd before the big reveal.

“You know, being injured sucks and a lot of days you just spend time trying to gain perspective and find the silver lining — there’s always a silver lining and things like this, it’s a lot easier to find,” Klein said. “It’s been a long trip and everybody who had an influence in this has made a significant impact on my journey, so thank you so much.”

And with that, the giant American flag that had been draped behind the stage was pulled back, and Major Klein saw his beautiful new home for the first time, designed specifically for him.

There was a huge smile on his face. First order of business was to raise the American flag on the pole to the right of his new front door.

And then, finally a chance to see inside for the very first time.

“This is incredible guys,” Klein said upon getting his first look.

Major Klein’s smart home

Smart homes are designed with special needs in mind — such as wheelchairs. They utilize technology to assist residents.

This home is built to specs just for Major Klein, including lighting, temperature control, a front door and a security system that are all controlled by his smart device. There’s also an intercom that lets him communicate throughout the entire house. The kitchen stove is on a lift so it lowers to the level of his wheelchair, and all the shelving in the cabinets can be pulled down so he can easily reach plates and other things.

But the major seemed most excited by the bathroom, which is built large enough for him to completely turn around in his wheelchair. It’s a roll-in shower that has a special drain.

Klein was thrilled.

“Most roll-in showers you end up having to put down about half a dozen towels over there because all the water flows out,” he said. “So having the drain there makes it a lot easier.”

As for how this new home compares to where he and Kim had been living — it doesn’t.

“Just that start to be able move freely about the home and not always worrying about taking the corners off of walls and stuff, that’s a lot,” Klein said. “It’s more than I think you realize.”

And for the couple, this home is a safety net — their forever home that will allow them to focus on the more important things in life that make them feel alive.

“More skiing, we’re going to be talking to the guys over at Seattle Paragliding in the next couple weeks about getting our licensing for doing that. So yeah, give us an opportunity to be closer to town and be here in Issaquah — I can’t wait,” Klein said.

“Rest and relax and get ready for the next adventure,” Kim added.

Among those next adventures is the couple’s upcoming wedding, set for this October on Major Klein’s Alive Day.

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