LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (PIX11) – Two Long Island families have had their mortgages paid off by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation in honor of Veterans Day. 

NYPD Detectives Luis Alvarez and Sammy Lee both served in the United States Armed Forces before joining the department.  

“This Veterans Day, we thank those who volunteered to step up and serve our country and acknowledge all they sacrificed to keep us and our country safe,” Tunnel to Towers Chairman and CEO Frank Siller said.

Alvarez assisted in debris cleanup at ground zero after the 9/11 terror attacks. He passed away at 53 after his battle with 9/11-related cancer. He is survived by his wife Alaine and their three children. Alvarez was a member of the United States Marine Corps and spent his final years making repeated trips to Washington, D.C., urging lawmakers to pass a bill replenishing the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, according to the foundation. 

Lee was in the U.S. Army, where he served in Iraq. Lee was exposed to burn pits, which caused cancer, according to the foundation. He also served in the NYPD’s intelligence bureau. 

Lee is survived by his wife Audrey and their two young children. Lee’s widow said she is eternally grateful to Tunnel to Towers for providing the stability and relief of a mortgage-free home for her family.  

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was started after the 9/11 terror attacks. Its mission is to provide mortgage-free homes to Gold Star families and the families of fallen first responders with young children. The foundation is also committed to eliminating homelessness among veterans and its mission to ensure America never forgets 9/11.  

Tunnel to Towers is paying off a total of 50 mortgages for men and women who have served in the armed forces this Veterans Day.

Matthew Euzarraga is a multimedia journalist from El Paso, Texas. He has covered local news and LGBTQIA topics in the New York City Metro area since 2021. He joined the PIX11 Digital team in 2023. You can see more of his work here.