“We're building mortgage-free homes for Gold Star Families, and that includes any of the 13 that left behind a young family. And we do know one of them — his wife is pregnant and will be giving birth shortly,” Frank Siller said, most likely referencing Jiennah McCollum, the wife of 20-year-old Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, who was killed in the ISIS-K terrorist attack on August 26. “We are going to build her a mortgage-free house. And rest assured, we are going to take care of any Gold Star Family that fits that criteria.”
Rylee McCollum and Jiennah had just recently been married before he was killed along with 12 other servicemembers during the attack, according to the Casper Star-Tribune. Their baby is expected to arrive in September.
“He was so excited to be a dad, and he was going to be a great dad,” McCollum's sister Cheyenne said.
She added, “We want to make sure that people know that these are the kids that are sacrificing themselves, and he's got a family who loves him and a wife who loves him and a baby that he'll never get to meet.”
Siller heralded the 13 servicemembers killed in the attack as “American heroes” and sympathized with the pain and grief their families are experiencing.
“I have a great relationship with so many [families of servicemembers and first responders] and we cry together — and believe me, there's been a lot of that going on,” he said.
“But they're great American heroes, and that's what we have to take from it,” he said.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation gives mortgage-free homes to the spouses and children of servicemembers who die in the line of duty. The non-profit also gives smart homes to severely injured veterans and first responders and pays off the mortgages of fallen law enforcement officers and firefighters who lose their lives in the line of duty, or to 9/11 related illness, and leave behind young children.
Siller said his family started the non-profit in honor of his brother, Stephen Siller, who was a firefighter and gave up his life saving others during the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. Siller detailed Stephen's final moments, noting how his younger brother bravely trekked on foot through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to get to the Twin Towers and help his fellow first responders and those affected.
“His story is one of great pain and great sacrifice, but he came out the other side to help. Our family wanted to come out the other side of that tunnel as well and to make sure that we are there to help these other families that are feeling the same thing that we felt,” Siller said. “And what better way than to give them a mortgage-free home — not give it to them: they earned it. It's theirs.”