The term “Gold Star Family” refers to the immediate family members of a service member who died in the line of duty. This designation can refer to that service member’s surviving spouse, children, parents, or siblings — and while the title is meant as a tribute to the sacrifice that their loved one made in the name of our country, it’s an honor that no one truly wants. One organization dedicated to supporting Gold Star Families is the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, based out of Staten Island, New York. At an event hosted by the foundation in mid-May, the foundation announced that it had paid off the mortgages of two Gold Star Families here in Clarksville.
Those heroes are:
U.S. Army SPC Russell Shane Hercules Jr. from Clarksville was killed serving in Afghanistan in 2009. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart for his bravery and courageous deeds. He was just 22 years old and left behind his wife Victoria, his two children and two stepchildren.
U.S. Army SGT Louie Ramos from Clarksville died in May 2011 from injuries sustained when insurgents attacked his unit in Afghanistan. Ramos received several awards while serving, including the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the ArmyService Ribbon, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, the Air Assault Badge, and the Parachutist and Pathfinder Badge(s). He is survived by his wife, Yesenia, two children and a stepson.
The announcement was made at the foundation’s Never Forget Concert, hosted at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, Tennessee. Nearly 750 first responders and military families attended the concert, which featured performances by Old Dominion, Brantley Gilbert, Darryl Worley, and Willie Shaw. In addition to the two families from Clarksville, the Tunnel to TowersFoundation paid off the mortgages of three other Gold Star families around Tennessee, and the mortgage of Jeff Carson, the late country singer turned police officer. Carson was an award-winning country singer and songwriter. He later became a police officer in Franklin. In March 2022, Carson died of a heart attack. The Carson family attended the concert to accept the foundation’s gift.“Thank you all for being here this evening. I think we thought we were just being invited. Jeff just would’ve never believed all of this. There has been so much happening in these last few weeks and we’re just so thankful, we’re grateful.” Carson’s wife, Kim, said at the event. During the concert, Tunnel to Towers President and CEO Frank Siller also announced new details regarding the foundation’s Veteran Homelessness program, which will work to eliminate veteran homelessness throughout the country. The foundation will be providing housing for over 500veterans by the end of the year in three communities: Riverside, California; Los Angeles, California; and Phoenix, Arizona. As part of the program, the foundation will be working withU.S. VETS and the American Legion to also provide comprehensive care, such as mental health and addiction services, and skills training to the homeless veterans.“You see what we do for our fallen first responders, you see what we do for our Gold Star families, and you see what we do for our catastrophically injured service men and women, and now tonight, the official announcement of our program and our promise to eradicate homelessness amongst our veterans. It is an enormous undertaking, but you know what? I’m not worried. And you want to know why I’m not worried? Because we have all of you,” Siller said at the event. About the Tunnel to Towers FoundationThe Tunnel to Towers Foundation is dedicated to honoring the sacrifice of FDNY Firefighter Stephen Siller, who laid down his life to save others on September 11, 2001. Stephen, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Upon hearing the news, Stephen called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear. Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others. For more than 20 years, the foundation has supported our nation’s first responders, veterans, and their families by providing these heroes and the families they leave behind with mortgage-free homes.
To learn more about the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, please visitT2T.org