RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Tunnel to Towers Foundation announced it paid the mortgages on the Fayetteville home of Army Staff Sergeant Ronnie Sanders and Army Lieutenant Colonel Christian Blevins. 

In observance of Memorial Day, Tunnel to Towers said it was paying off mortgages for 21 Gold Star families in 16 states across the country. Gold Star families are those who have lost a family member in action or in service.

Sgt. Sanders was killed on February 3, 2007, when a bomb detonated near his vehicle in Taji, Iraq. He was on his third tour of duty and was 26 years old. He is survived by his wife, Rachel, and their four children, Lakeiya, Ronnie Sanders Jr, and twin daughters, Ra’Onnie and Re’Onnie. 

On April 23, 2019, Army Lieutenant Colonel Christian Blevins lost his battle with metastatic melanoma, believed to have been caused by exposure to toxic chemicals from burn pits. He had been deployed several times to Iraq and Afghanistan before he was diagnosed with melanoma.

Tunnel to Towers Foundation said after several rounds of chemo, radiation, and therapy, doctors told his then-pregnant wife, Katrina, that there was nothing more that could be done. He lives for seven months to meet his newborn son. He is survived by his wife, Katrina, and six children. 

“This Memorial Day is the first time in 20 years America’s servicemen and women are not in harm’s way on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Tunnel to Towers Chairman and CEO Frank Siller. “These conflicts are over, but families are still dealing with the loss of husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. I ask all Americans to take a minute to think of these heroes and their families who have sacrificed so much over the last two decades.”

The Tunnel to Towers Gold Star Family Home Program honors the legacy of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country by paying off the mortgage or providing the surviving spouses and young children with mortgage-free homes.

The foundation has a goal to reach 1,000 mortgage-free homes delivered across the country by the end of the year.