As Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Michelle Satterfield emerged from the tunnel under the Heinz Red Zone in the first part of the third quarter of the Steelers game Sunday evening, she thought she was simply being honored as part of the ATI Salute to Heroes.
Sgt. Satterfield, dressed in uniform and waving a camouflage Terrible Towel, ran onto the field through two rows of fellow soldiers from her 14th Quartermaster Detachment and listened as the crowd of more than 65,000 chanted "U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A."
Then, the public address announcer mentioned a special delivery, and Sgt. Satterfield, 35, turned to see her brother, Army Ranger Staff Sgt. Jeremy Boetjer, whom she hadn't seen since Christmas 2013, emerge from the tunnel behind her.
"When they brought him out, I thought, 'This is awesome,' and then they kept going," she said.
Hugging her brother, Sgt. Satterfield at first didn't even hear as the announcer said the words "a key to her new Pittsburgh home." Then, the words sunk in, and she saw the giant, golden-colored key being handed to her.
"I had no clue this was happening. I'm very overwhelmed and completely surprised," she said as she spoke to the media afterward.
Presented by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, the Pittsburgh Steelers, FedEx, Blueroof Technologies, Tiger Vets and McKeesport High School, the three-bedroom, two-bath home will be completed in April.
Right now, the modular home, with 9-foot ceilings and crown molding is on the campus of McKeesport Area High School waiting to be moved to its foundation in White Oak.
The home was built by about 75 building construction students at the school over the past three years through the work of the Blueroof Tiger Vet program, which builds modular smart homes for veterans. Sgt. Satterfield was nominated to receive the home by an area veterans' program. The nominations were then considered by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, and the winner was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers, said John Hodge, the COO of the foundation.
"We know her heart and what's on her heart," Mr. Hodge said. "So it felt like a perfect match."
Sgt. Satterfield, who enlisted at age 18 and is fourth-generation military, served two tours in Iraq. She also was activated in 2012 to assist in Hurricane Sandy relief in New York. When her mission was completed, she returned to Pittsburgh, filled a 17-foot truck with donated food, clothing and furniture, and drove back to the devastated area to distribute the items. She also has completed humanitarian work in El Salvador and Peru and serves as a water purification specialist.
Outside of her reserve work, based at the 14th Quartermaster in Greensburg, Sgt. Satterfield works in production for Mylan pharmaceuticals. She and her 12-year-old son, Hunter, live in Morgantown.
In addition to Sgt. Satterfield's receiving the home, John Bertoty of Blueroof Technologies said that Penn State Greater Allegheny also is interested in helping her with her goals of pursuing additional education. She would like to study social work and assist soldiers returning from deployment.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was created in memory of Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter who was killed responding to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He had been off-duty when he heard the calls go out on the scanner in his truck, turned around and started driving to Manhattan to help, Mr. Hodge said. Traffic was at a standstill, so Mr. Siller abandoned his vehicle, put on 65 pounds of gear and ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to get to his squad. All 12 of them died that day, Mr. Hodge said. Mr. Siller, who was 34, left behind a wife and five children, ranging in age from just a few months to 10 years old.
The foundation's mission is to assist soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has built -- or is in the process of building -- 46 smart homes for severely disabled soldiers and hope to build 200.
Mr. Hodge said that Sgt. Satterfield's home and the partnership with Blueroof could serve as a prototype to build smart homes with modular construction because they can be completed in about half the time.
Between now and Christmas, Mr. Hodge said, all donations made to the foundation, at tunnel2towers.org, or ourbravest.org, will go to furnish Sgt. Satterfield's house and to the completion of a second modular home being built by the Tiger Vets for a soldier in the Pittsburgh area.
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter: @PaulaReedWard. ___
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