Time after time members of the staff at the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation will say how lucky we are to meet such wonderful Americans through our support of first responders and military heroes. Whether it is an injured service member, his family and friends, or individuals from other organizations that support our troops, we are blessed to work towards a common goal with such amazing people. Every once in a while, there is a certain person or a group of people that stands out and leaves a lasting impact.

On Wednesday, July 1st, while attending the home dedication ceremony for Army SGT Adam Keys, we had the pleasure of meeting Tom and Eleanor “El” Porter of Springfield, Virginia. Tom and El have sweet smiles and friendly faces that appear to be able to light up the darkest of rooms. Speaking with them confirms it!

Tom and El have been married for over 60 years! Tom is a Korean War veteran who suffered the loss of both legs in July 1952. During Tom’s rehab at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, he met El, a US Army physical therapist, who helped nurse Tom back to health during his recovery and ultimately, the two fell in love.

When our service members began coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with amputations and other severe injuries, Tom and El became Peer Level visitors through the Amputee Coalition of America at Walter Reed Military Medical Center, supporting the young men and women as they began their long journey to recovery. Their twice weekly visits have been called “effective” in regards to how they have aided the amputees that they visited.

Seeing Tom, who is now in his 80s, walk in on prosthetic legs has, undoubtedly, had a profound impact on the lives of recently injured service members. The challenges encountered during their effort to transition to civilian life are daunting. Tom’s perseverance has been a huge inspiration to those who are facing the same difficulties he did after returning from war. El’s love and understanding serve as an example to spouses, caretakers, and other loved ones. The homemade cookies that El brought during each visit definitely helped with the recovery process as well!

Tom and El’s story has also been an inspiration to injured service members worried how their injuries might affect their chances at finding love. Tom was there to reassure them that “having an amputation is better than having a puppy” – meaning they would be just fine when it comes to the opposite sex. He makes the young, injured service members realize that they will go on to meet the girl or guy of their dreams and have a family – Tom’s very own love story serving as proof!

After speaking with Tom and El, and asking them if it would be okay if the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation shared their story, they were so humble, wanting to make sure that sharing their story didn’t take away from Adam’s special day. For us, the thought didn’t even cross our minds. It’s because of Adam that the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation was able to hear the story of Tom and El, and be inspired by the work that they do for so many of injured service members who we know and love.

Tom and El’s attendance at Adam’s home dedication is a testament to their dedication to supporting Adam and the other amputees returning home from our most recent wars. El explained that the couple has known Adam since he first arrived at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in 2010 and they wouldn’t have missed being there for Adam on this special day. El said “Adam is a special one for me.” We could not agree more! It is also a testament to the kind of person that Adam is – you can’t help, but want to cheer him on!

We remain grateful and humbled by the wonderful people we continue to meet as we follow in Stephen’s footsteps to “do good.” We hope our supporters are also inspired by Tom and El’s story. It is our pleasure to share it with you.

We thank Tom and El Porter for their service to our country through the United States Military as well as all Korean War Veterans. Your sacrifices will never be forgotten.

“Let Us Do Good”

Photo credit: Nicole DeLeon