McKeesport program, N.Y. nonprofit join to give Army sergeant free house
The good news just kept getting better Sunday for Army Staff Sgt. Michelle Satterfield.
Thinking she was going onto the field during the Steelers game as part of the regular ATI Hometown Heroes salute to service members, she instead got to embrace her brother, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Boetjer, in a surprise reunion.
She waved her camo-patterned towel on the field during a break in the third quarter, then ran halfway back from the end zone to the players' tunnel.
That's when she spotted her brother in his dress uniform.
Then, amid a sea of waving Terrible Towels and chants of “USA!” Satterfield was presented with a giant novelty key representing the free house provided for her through a partnership by a New York nonprofit and a McKeesport school program.
“I‘ve moved around a lot throughout my life,” said Satterfield, 35, a fourth-generation member of the military who is living in Morgantown and is assigned to the 14th Quartermaster Detachment in Greensburg. “I feel at home where I'm at now, but this will be where I settle.”
Satterfield was chosen for the honor by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
She was still composing herself during a news conference after the on-field presentation.
The Staten Island-based Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation — named for a New York firefighter killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — is working with McKeesport-based Blueroof Technologies to complete the three-bedroom, two-bath modular house for Satterfield. They will move it to a lot in White Oak by April for Satterfield and her 12-year-old son.
The house will be within walking distance of an American Legion post and the Penn State Greater Allegheny campus, both of which had representatives ready to connect with Satterfield, said John Bertoty, Blueroof's executive director.
“This is going to open up a lot of doors for me and my son,” Satterfield said.
Satterfield is trained as a water purification specialist and has been deployed to Iraq multiple times, most recently in 2009. She helped the New York region clean up after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, then volunteered to gather supplies, ship them to New York and distribute them to the needy afterward.
Blueroof worked with about 70 students at McKeesport High School to build the house, which is sitting on the school campus with a second under construction nearby.
The house is a pilot project for “smart home” technologies in a modular building. Tunnel to Towers hopes it will accelerate its efforts to build 200 houses for disabled veterans, said John Hodge, chief operating officer of the foundation.
Satterfield is not disabled, but her house will contain automation technology for security, lighting, heating and cooling. The second house Blueroof is building could go to a disabled veteran and be loaded with even more gadgets, Hodge said.
“We try to take (vets) from what they can do to what they want to do,” Bertoty said.
The foundation's “Building for America's Bravest” program provides homes with built-in support technology for disabled soldiers, typically those missing multiple limbs. Last year, it donated a 3,000-square-foot home to Marine Corps Sgt. Doug Vitale that featured an elevator, a therapy room and a lift system to move him from his bed to his bathroom. The systems can be controlled from an iPad app.
Hodge said all donations that Tunnel to Towers receives until Christmas will go toward work on the second house.
Matthew Santoni is a Trib Total Media staff writer.