HOWELL — Merry Christmas, Scott Nokes — and welcome to your family's new home!

The U.S. Marine Corps corporal, who lost both his legs and part of his vision during a deployment in Afghanistan, on Monday was cheered on by a crowd outside his new “smart home” built by charity.

The house, which is mortgage free, has features meant to benefit someone with the kind of physical challenges Nokes faces: automated doors, lighting sensors, wider halls and doorways, showers that accommodate wheelchairs, automatic door openers on cabinets, counters and stove tops that can be raised and lowered, back-up generators, and remote-controlled central heating and air.

During a tearful and emotional ceremony on Monday, Nokes thanked the builders, sponsors and fundraisers for their contributions to the project.

“You never a need to thank me for my service, guys. I’m beyond happy that I had the opportunity to serve this great nation and I would do it all over again,” he said.

The 28-year-old said he remembers witnessing the traumatic horror of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but also the comforting community support that followed.

“After 9/11 I had the distinct feeling of remembering everybody coming together,��� he said. “I don’t think I felt like this since then.”

During Nokes’s second deployment to Afghanistan, he developed dysentery and sepsis, which resulted in his amputations.

He is studying to obtain a degree in history and homeland security as well as learning Braille. He also is planning a career in peer mentorship.

The smart home project was organized by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. The organization is committed to building 200 such homes for catastrophically injured servicemen. They already have built dozens, including this first one in New Jersey.

The organization is named after a New York City firefighter who gave his life on 9/11 after running with gear from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers. The organization helps military men and women and emergency responders across the nation.

Also this month, the nonprofit announced that it would pay off the mortgage of slain Jersey City Police Detective Joseph Seals, who was shot dead by gunmen involved in the Dec. 10 massacre in Jersey City.

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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email

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