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We first met 9-year-old Taylor Bass, daughter of wounded veteran Army Sgt. Benjamin Bass, last year when she donated more than $3000 from the sale of her 4-H goat to Operation Homefront and Wounded Warrior Project. We decided to check back in with her and see how she’s doing. We were pleased, but not surprised, to find out that Taylor’s giving heart is as strong as ever.

 

  • 1. Are you still raising goats? Any other animals? Yes. I am still raising goats. I have a pig, a new pony (Noah) and we are getting a steer also for me to show.

 

  • 2. How much time do you spend with the animals every day? What do you like best about raising animals?  One to four hours a day, depending on what all needs to be done with the animals. Of course they are cute and cuddly, and can be sweet and nice. I also just love animals. It’s fun to see a baby become a top show animal.

 

  • 3.  How many weeks or months does it take to get an animal ready for 4-H?  It depends on the animal. A steer can take a full year. A goat usually takes 4-6 months. We like to get them as bottle babies … so 6 months. My pony can be shown in halter this year, but it can take years if (I am) training to get them ready for events. (I am) lucky I have my mom’s old horse (Pokey) for events.

 

  • 4. If you give auction money to a charity, how do you decide which charity to give it to?  Well, I think of the charities that need the most and give to them. Or I give back to the ones that have helped our family when we needed it most. This year, I’m going to donate to kids with cancer and Dallas Children’s Hospital. We are going to donate electronics and toys for the kids that are really sick.

 

  • 5. If other military kids wanted to give back to charities, what advice would you give them? I would tell them to lead with their heart. Don’t do it just because someone says to, but to give it because they want to also to pick something that means something to them. Because then it is more rewarding to help a cause that you believe in.

 

  • 6. Your dad is a military veteran. How has that affected your decision to give back?  It affected my decision because without (Operation Homefront’s) help, we would have lost everything. He gave so much to our country. (We felt) like they turned their back on him and us until you guys stepped in and helped us. I love my dad and what he stands for. I believe that all veterans should be able to get the help they need. Which is why I chose to donate to you so you can keep helping soldiers like my dad, and their families, before they lose hope.

 

taylorblog27. If other military kids are struggling with a dad being deployed or injured, what advice would you give them? Just to keep helping him and try to make him happy. Don’t add to his problems by rebelling or getting in trouble. Help with your siblings and stay busy. It makes time pass faster. Also always tell him how much you love him because you don’t know if he is coming back or how he will be the next day. I would also like to tell them not to lose hope when he gets out (of the military). He will eventually come back around. The change seems horrible. Just remember he is still the dad you love, he just has to have time to come back to you as a family.

 

 

Taylor’s story reminds us of the strength and resiliency of military kids. If you know an amazing young patriot, be sure to nominate them for our 2017 Military Child of the Year Award or for our 2017 Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton.

If you are looking for a way to get involved in supporting our military families, we invite you to join our Answer the Call campaign.

answerthecallblog9-22-16What motivates a young man or woman to serve their country? They have an entire future ahead of them. What causes them to answer the call to protect the American way of life and its freedoms, at a potentially great cost to themselves and their loved ones?

Here are top 10 answers we recently received from veterans and service members. Their answers are not uncommon among those who join the military.

Read them and be reminded of the courage and strength of those who serve and join us in celebrating and supporting those who answer the call.

  1. “I loved having a one purpose – protecting our country and keeping us free.” – Robert R., Veteran
  2. “What I love most about serving my country is being able to answer the call to service and stand next to my brothers and sisters to defend this great nation.” – Sabrina L., E5
  3. “I stand for my flag, my Country and my neighbor.” – Richard B., E5
  4. “The …feeling of connection and pride I have knowing that I follow in the footsteps of the men and women who have come before me.” – Julius A., E6
  5. “The community and common goal of joining American men and women of all cultural backgrounds to voluntarily serve our country.”  – Cindy C., O5
  6. “The idea that I was giving my all for my family back home.”  – Ian S., E3
  7. “When I was going through basic training, I was asked why I enlisted. My answer was simple, I wanted to be like Xena, Mulan, Pocahontas, and G.I. Jane. I serve because I want to be the 1% that fights back when the enemy comes knocking. I take pride knowing that my family and friends are safe when I am in uncomfortable conditions, wherever it may be, miles away from home.”  – Andrea B, E5
  8. “Being in military has shown me that I am capable of doing a lot more than I ever believed I could.” –Andrew F, E5
  9. “I love being a part of something bigger than myself… an organization comprised of proud Americans with shared values of selfless service, honor, integrity, and loyalty.”  – Robert Z., O4
  10. “Service before self. I serve for my country and for the people in it.” – Matthew L., O6

If you are looking for a way to get involved in supporting our military families, we invite you to join our Answer The Call campaign.

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Many of us have friends, family and loved ones who are serving or have served. You can help us honor, support and serve our our military and their families by taking part in our Answer The Call campaign.

 

Here are three ways you can make a difference today:

 

Support:

When you give to Operation Homefront, you help make life just a little easier for our military families and wounded warriors. 92% of all our donations made go directly to programs and services to support military families. Visit the Current Needs page to read the stories and needs of families we are serving, or you can support one of our ongoing needs.

Honor:

Email your Message of Thanks to AnswertheCall@operationhomefront.net or post a photo on the Operation Homefront Facebook page with #AnswerTheCall of a service member, veteran or military family member you know with their name, branch of service and when they served.

Serve:

Sign-up today to be an Operation Homefront volunteer to support military families in your area throughout the year.

If you have any questions about the campaign or other ways you want to support military families and veterans, please email info@operationhomefront.net.

We also invite everyone to get social with us:

On Facebook

On Twitter

On Instagram

 

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Post your pictures with #AnswerTheCall or email them to us at socialnet@operationhomefront.net

Have We Forgotten?

NEW YORK, New York (Sept. 11)--Smoke rises in lower Manhattan after the World Trade Centers fall Sept. 11, 2001. USCG photo by PA2 Tom Sperduto

NEW YORK, New York (Sept. 11)–Smoke rises in lower Manhattan after the World Trade Centers fall Sept. 11, 2001. USCG photo by PA2 Tom Sperduto

When we reflect on the events of September 11, 2001, the horror and pain of that day is often mingled with the hope and comfort of the many images and stories of heroism. Our generation had never seen such outpouring of concern and support from Americans, coast to coast.  From those who opened their homes to the stranded, to those who passed out water bottles to first responders near the scenes of tragedy, we were buoyed in our darkest hours by the values and spirit that has defined this country since its founding.

Today, 15 years later, as we pause to reflect this Sunday on Patriot Day, many of us may wonder, “Where has that spirit gone?”  You may hear others wonder aloud whether the America reflected in those days of fellowship and unity is gone, never to be recovered.

But there is one group that still believes.

Our men and women in uniform. And they have arguably carried the biggest burden and paid a heavy cost since that fall of 2001.

We have talked with men and women who joined specifically because of the attacks of September 11.  Some were mere children at the time, but they carried that calling with them until they were old enough to volunteer.  Still others talk about an opportunity given to them, or to their immigrant parents, and of a need to give back.  In the 15 years that Operation Homefront has worked with military and wounded warrior families, we have been amazed time and again at the love and reverence that generations of Americans have for this country.

And when reflecting on their service, the vast majority talk about bonds tighter than family, in some cases, and the privilege of serving with the finest men and women that America has to offer.

It is in these conversations that we see the core values of who we are as a nation, and the resiliency and strength that allows us to weather the darker times.

The men and women of our armed forces come from our communities.  The honor, courage, commitment and call to service comes from the communities they were raised in.  In short, they are America.

And they are not alone.

Support for military families comes from all walks of life. We see it at the events we host around the country. We often partner with other organizations serving other needs in their community, such as mental health and food insecurity. We see the young and the old all doing something to make their little part of the world a better place.

Americans answered the call then, and they continue to answer the call today.

Many say there seems to be a lot of anger in the air these days, whether it’s  talk shows, the web, or social media.  They wonder how to make it better. But we ask you to take a moment and really look around and see that your fellow Americans are still phenomenally friendly, caring, generous, and quick to help when help is needed. Sometimes the opportunity to keep the spirit alive comes to you, other times you need to seek it out.  But it is there.

This September 11 anniversary, we encourage everyone to find a way to keep the spirit alive in their community. It does not always have to be a donation of money or goods, it can be your time, an ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on. A smile to a stranger or stopping to take a moment to talk to someone.

doing so, we can, as in the words of President Bush in his address to the nation, “None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.”

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Our country’s service members, veterans, and their families have all Answered The Call to serve our nation, sacrificing much in the process. Service comes with many challenges – being apart as a reslt of deployment, the loss of a family member, adjusting to a new community and career, hitting a financial obstacle. Putting the needs of our country before their own, our military personnel and their families have always been committed to protecting us all.

If you are looking for a way to get involved in supporting our military families, we invite you to join our Answer The Call campaign.

“If Only…”

Guest blog from Dr. Sara Boz, Senior Director of Operation Homefront’s Hearts of Valor program

Suicide is a complex and frightening topic.  In our community, it hits so close to home that our reaction tends to be denial. Suicide is a hard topic to open up about… but we can no longer ignore it. We have to talk about it.

There is a phrase that sunlight is the best disinfectant. We need to take the topic of suicide out of the shadows and talk openly.

When a caregiver or a veteran tells me their story about a failed suicide attempt, it normally goes like this:

“I probably would have succeeded in killing myself, if only…”

  • “If only the phone hadn’t rang.”
  • “If only I had more pills.”
  • “If only the ambulance had arrived a little later.”

When a person plans their suicide they make the very final decision to die before their time on Earth is over.  They no longer fear death and dying.  They are at the point at which they perceive death is better than their current situation.  Those who have tried tell me that they felt there was no other solution to their pain and suffering.  They feel hopeless and in a single, desperate moment… they find the will and the means.

“If only” there was something we could do.

Working with veterans and their caregivers as director of Operation Homefront’s Hearts of Valor program, I have talked with many families who face the challenge of healing from both the seen and unseen wounds of war.  There are some ways we can help create more “if only’s:”

  • We can work on being more aware of the people we care about.  KNOW that it’s okay to ask someone if they are feeling suicidal. If I notice that someone is giving up, feeling hopeless, or not themselves, I will ask how I can help.
  • Put yourself in others’ shoes. I’ve tried to imagine the different ways of taking one’s own life. Maybe I can’t fully grasp how someone is willing to accept the pain that will likely accompany suicide but I can try and see the path they took to get to that point. Could it be that veterans do not have a fear of death and dying because they were exposed to so much death during their combat tours?  Maybe they think that the pain they are experiencing, whether emotional or physical, is more than the pain they would feel through death.  Understanding the path may help us steer someone off of it at any point before the end.
  • It’s okay to be persistent. You would be hard pressed to find someone who thinks, “I did enough to prevent this.”  I have known a few people who have been successful in their suicide attempts.  I will always wonder if I could have done more and asked more questions. If a caregiver or veteran talks about suicide, I will not leave them alone. A few years ago, a caregiver called me to ask for a housing resource.  During the conversation she mentioned that her husband may be suicidal because of the situation they were in.  She explained that there were signs that he was giving up.  I listened to her story, asked a lot of questions, and told her I could help. In this instance, the caregiver was way ahead of me. She already had a plan to get him to a physician that week and had made the house safe and free of all weapons over the past few weeks.  She planned to drive her husband straight to the emergency room if the situation progressed.  I called her about a year later to see how she was doing and they are all now doing well. Which proves that there is always hope…such an important message to communicate to the person who wants to give up.

I believe that most people don’t want to die. I don’t want anyone to give up on their life.  There is no definite solution to preventing suicide, and the tragic fact is that someone will find a way if they are resolute enough.  But maybe, just maybe, we can take steps that will save one. And then another. And before we know it, we have saved more than we have lost.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. If you know of someone who may be suicidal, please refer them to the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press “1” or go to https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ for more information including how to identify the warning signs.

 

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In a survey from Blue Star Families last year, financial issues rated among the top concerns for service members, veterans and their families.

Today, we host guest blogger, Clifford Cho, Bank of America Senior Vice President /Business Banking Market Executive.

San Diego is home to nearly 100,000 active service members and more than 240,000 veterans living and working right here – one of the highest such populations anywhere in the United States. While we owe a debt of gratitude for the service of veterans and their families, we also owe it to ourselves to recognize how integral they are—and will be—to our lives every day. Here in San Diego, for example, these men and women are inextricably linked to the $45 billion that the military generates for our local economy.

The need for greater financial education among veterans and military families is as great as it’s ever been. A 2015 study by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that service members carry higher credit card debt and unsecured debt balances than their civilian counterparts. And in a survey from Blue Star Families last year, financial issues rated among the top concerns for service members, veterans and their families. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said that financial readiness training should be more tailored to fit specific family needs.

Statistics aside, many simply struggle navigating the complex system of benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, and figuring out credit, lending, savings and mortgage options can be daunting for those who are facing them for the first time.

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It was our honor to participate for the 6th straight year in Operation Homefront’s Back-To-Brigade.

Recently, I joined other Bank of America employees at a volunteer event for Operation Homefront called “Back-To-School Brigade” in San Diego. During the event, over 1,000 deserving military children were each given a new backpack filled with school supplies. Nationwide, the Back-To-School Brigade served over 20,000 military children, ensuring they had all of the tools they need to be successful in school. It was our 6th straight year of participating in this event and we all witnessed first-hand how appreciative the military members were of our support. Our team has also supported Operation Homefront holiday programs with drives and volunteers.

In addition to Operation Homefront, Bank of America also works with many other military organizations. One of those groups, REBOOT San Diego and its veteran’s transition program that provides job skills and career education to returning service men and women. To date, REBOOT has helped over 1,450 transitioning service members and veterans maintain a steady 97% success rate in completion of their various workshops, attainment of a stated goal of education or employment and retention in the REBOOT program after their initial year. We’ve also been able to fund additional monthly workshops in North San Diego County to help Marines from Camp Pendleton and area veterans.

Proper financial education can make a massive difference for all of us and for military families in particular. It can help to relieve financial stress—one of the major causes of tension in service members’ relationships—and it can improve the lives of entire families. For some, it can even be the difference between homelessness and gainful employment in a fulfilling career.

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It has never been more urgent to ensure our community’s veterans have the financial education they need to succeed.

In addition, through BetterMoneyHabits.com —a financial education resource that Bank of America developed with education innovator Sal Khan and Khan Academy—we recently launched new content specifically geared toward veterans and military families. The new content offers transitioning service members guidance on issues like navigating the complexities of the GI Bill, a tutorial on how VA home loans work and a primer on buying a car.  The publication Military Times partnered with us to discuss these topics along with financial readiness as part of a free webinar available online.

It has never been more urgent to ensure our community’s veterans have the financial education they need to succeed. More importantly, as citizens and members of the community, we each have a responsibility to use our unique skills and gifts to help unlock the potential of the veterans and military families we encounter every day. We do this through financial literacy. How can your company help grow the skills and strengths of our nation’s veterans?

Bank of America has been a steadfast supporter of Operation Homefront programs and events across the country, such as our Back-to-School Brigade and the Holiday Toy Drive programs.   We look forward to continuing to work with them to build strong, stable and secure military families.

Drew's Profile PictureOne of the best feelings in the world is to see the smiles on the faces of our military families at our Back-to-School Brigade events.  A close second is the honor of seeing so many come together in a shared mission to make a real difference for part of their community that often does not have the roots and support system that their neighbors enjoy.

It is that shared mission that drives volunteer Drew Aquino. Drew is the Director of Military Outreach for the Southeast Armed Services YMCA Pikes Peak Region in Colorado Springs.  Not only is Drew helping make our Rocky Mountains Field Office Back-To-School Brigade event possible at the YMCA, he is also picking up school supplies at 13 local Dollar Tree stores. In addition, he is managing the whole process to sort and pack thousands of supplies into backpacks that will be given to military kids in the area.

Drew grew up in a military family, and is himself a former Marine. Having been stationed and worked all over world serving U.S. military & their families, Drew understands the challenges of settling into a new community and a new school.

On being a part of our Back-To-School Brigade, Drew says, “It is an honor to be involved with Operation Homefront and Back-To-School Brigade because we are all working towards a common goal of making a positive difference in the military community. As a former U.S. Army Brat and U.S. Marine, I am reminded of the memories of what my family endured while my father deployed multiple times. Nothing is more honorable than to give back to the military community and be a humble servant leader.”

ASYMCA and Operation Homefront have similar missions, helping and serving military service members and their families. Working together, both organizations identified opportunities to synergize and make a bigger impact and positive difference for military families in and around Colorado Springs.

Drew encourages others to find a way to help affect change in their communities. “Get involved in your local community. Give back. Make a positive difference in a person’s life and build community. We are the leaders who must set the example for our kids and the future.  Passion, hard work & a positive attitude is a force multiplier!”

Click here to learn more about how you can get involved with Operation Homefront in your community.  Find a list of our upcoming Back-To-School Brigade events here and find out how our “1 Military. 1 Family” campaign is making a difference for military families across the country.

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