RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Ahead of Veterans Day, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation will be honoring the service of U.S. Army Captain James Howard.

The organization announced it had paid off the mortgage on Howard’s Richmond home and made the residence more accessible. Tunnel to Towers will hold a ceremony in his honor on Friday — welcoming him and his family back into their house.

In addition to lifting the financial burden of a mortgage, Tunnel to Towers made the home more accessible, adding an ADA-compliant bedroom and deck to the home.  

“It’s the most gracious gift my family can receive. to know that I can spend the rest of my life in this home and that it will be in my family forever,” said Howard. 

Howard is a third-generation soldier, his grandfather served in World War II and his father served in Vietnam.  Howard graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 2002 and served in Iraq and completed Ranger, Sapper, Jumpmaster and Special Forces courses. Howard medically retired from the Army in 2010 after numerous combat and training injuries that left him quadriplegic and wheelchair-bound.   

“I come from a large family that served. All the way back to World War Two and Vietnam. I felt that obligation during the time that our country was attacked,” he said. “You know, it seems like the right thing to do.”

Howard told 8News his injuries are a “blessing by misfortune” because that’s what led him to start his two all-volunteer nonprofits that assist veterans and children with disabilities, the people he believes are the real heroes. Veterans and Athletes United (VAU) has supported over 6,000 veterans since 2013 through accessible retreats and adaptive sports programs. REACHcycles has provided over 1,000 specially adapted bikes to children with disabilities.  

“It’s still unreal to imagine, all the blessings I’ve had and so many that have never gotten those opportunities,” Howard said.    

Howard also designed and coordinated the effort to build the VAU traveling Global War on Terror Memorial Flag, which is made up of more than 7,000 dog tags inscribed with the names of those killed in the War on Terror. A copy of the memorial will be on display at Friday’s ceremony. 

“Remembering our fallen heroes, which are the real heroes,” Howard said. “I am no hero, the people that are on this flag, and out here today, and some of my family that served, they are the ones. I filled my obligation to my country.”

His now mortgage-free home also has a sentimental meaning behind it. It’s where he started a new journey in life.

“I got married in the backyard to my wonderful wife, Amanda. I’m a lucky man — she puts up a lot with me and my son, Luke,” he said. “She’s God’s gift to a hardened heart I guess you could say.”

The Tunnels to Towers Foundation has also donated $10,000 to Howard’s non-profit organizations.