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500 Reasons to Celebrate.

What an exciting time. Last week, we celebrated the 500th family to find that special place to call home thanks to our Homes on the Homefront program and our partners Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Meritage Homes.

IMG959296Moving around is part of military life. Blooming where you are planted becomes a way of life. But when service to country is coming to a close, many families begin to dream of planting roots and creating their forever home.

Last Friday, the dream came true for Andrew and his family after years of uncertainty.

Andrew, a Navy veteran, deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and served one year in combat. In 2014, he was honorably discharged and suffers from post-traumatic stress. Since their transition into civilian life, the family has moved three times. It has been unpleasant and unstable for Andrew and his family. Thanks to Operation Homefront and Chase, Andrew, who was raised in Atlanta, received a mortgage-free home in Bethlehem, Georgia.

Andrew and his family have come home.

BethlehemGAhomeEach family we have been honored to meet and support through our Homes on the Homefront program is unique. They were born and raised in large cities and small towns. Many have served in combat and still carry the seen and unseen wounds of war. What they share in common is the call to serve and then find their place when that service is over.

At Friday’s ceremony, Chief Operating Officer Robert Thomas spoke of the driving force behind the Homes on the Homefront program. “At Operation Homefront, we believe that owning a home is part of the American dream,” said Thomas. “After helping to secure the freedoms all Americans enjoy, we want to help our service members and their families realize their own American dreams.”

“We want to thank Operation Homefront and Chase for this opportunity,” said Andrew. “I wanted to do this for my wife because she moved around the country and dealt with my military enlistment. I thank them for making this possible, providing a stable home, and that we don’t have to worry about making the next rent payment – now we have a roof over our head.”

Those of us who work in the military and veteran community are acutely aware that stability and strong social support when transitioning out of the military can make a difference and help avoid the roadblocks and challenges that contribute to the still concerning number of homeless veterans. Today, more than 500 families are making memories and providing stable and secure futures for themselves in every state in America.

Total HOTH Homes Jan 2016

Along with our emergency assistance programs that offer assistance with rent and mortgages and our transitional housing at Operation Homefront Villages, the Homes on the Homefront program is having a life-changing impact for these families at a critical time.

And that is a reason to celebrate.

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View more pictures from the event.

Part of the American dream always has been owning a home. After helping to secure the freedoms all Americans enjoy, we want to help our warriors and their families realize their own American dreams. Through a partnership with Chase, Bank of American and Wells Fargo, Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program awards mortgage-free homes to veteran and military families.  Click here to view a list of currently available homes.

Whether you have been with us on our journey for a while or are new to discover us, we’d like to share a bit of what we do, how we made a difference in 2015, and what we look forward to in 2016:

1. We help make dreams come true

gettingtoknowusblog1picIn 2015, Operation Homefront awarded 95 mortgage-free homes to veteran families through our Homes on the Homefront program. On average, Operation Homefront awards between 80-100 homes each year thanks to the support of our partners. As those families complete a two-year program, they earn the deed to their home – 102 families completed that process last year. We are excited to be awarding our 500th home this month.

2. We’re here to help military families get through tough times.

Last year, we provided more than $4.2 million in emergency assistance grants to more than 2,300 families who hit a bump in the road and needed help with rent or mortgage payments, major home or car repairs, utility bills or buying food for their families.

We know that the holidays can be tough for our military families. In 2015, more than 10,420 children received toys at Holiday Toy Drive events, and 11,000 families received meals through various programs throughout the year, including our Holiday Meals for Military events.

3. We help families cope with the visible and invisible wounds of war.

Our Hearts of Valor program, which provides support to caregivers of wounded veterans, has grown to more than 2,600 participants, giving them vital connections to others who understand their unique challenges.

Transition from service continues to be a significant challenge for our post 9/11 veterans. More than 80 percent of the families assisted through our emergency assistance program were those with a wounded service member.

In 2015, Operation Homefront placed 111 families in one of our rent-free, transitional Operation Homefront Villages, providing critical security and time for our veterans to heal and focus on their futures.

gettingtoknowusblog2pic4. We remember the military child.

The start of a New Year brings with it the start of the Military Child of the Year Award season. We just announced this year’s semifinalists for the 2016 Military Child of the Year Award and in April, we will spotlight these incredible military children for the 8th year in a row at our gala in DC. In addition, this year, we are being joined by Booz Allen Hamilton who will award the inaugural Innovation Award to a military child.

One of our favorite times of the year is our annual Back-To-School Brigade campaign in the summer. In 2015, we provided more than 31,000 military kids with backpacks filled with school supplies.

5. We honor the role of the military spouse.

We were honored to help welcome new bundles of joy for over 1,000 military moms in 2015 at our Star-Spangled Babies baby showers. More than 600 spouses enjoyed nights of relaxation and fun at our Homefront Celebrations, including those in Tacoma, WA. This year, Homefront Celebrations and our amazing baby showers will return for another year of honoring those who hold down the homefront.

gettingtoknowusblog3pic6. We cover America!

Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas and Washington, DC, Operation Homefront serves every state from 17 locations across the country supported by 2,500 + volunteers.

What’s next?

We know there is still more work to be done. Every day, across America, Operation Homefront employees, volunteers and supporters are making great strides to help those that give so much for our nation. Our troops and their families are counting on us and it makes us very happy to know we’ll be there for them.

Your commitment will be crucial, especially with the ever-changing landscape of global threats and budget battles that impact our military and veteran families on a very deep level.

Here’s to building on the many successes we enjoyed in 2015 and continuing our journey in 2016.

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Last year’s recipients enjoy their moment in the spotlight. We can’t wait to see who the torch will be passed to in April in Washington, D.C.

Here at Operation Homefront, the New Year doesn’t just bring with it the anticipation of what can be but also the excitement of Military Child of the Year award season.

For the past 8 years, we have been amazed and inspired by the stories of thousand of military children and how they demonstrate resilience and strength of character, and leadership within their families and within their communities. All while facing of the challenges of military life.

In short, we have our work cut out for us.  And it begins in earnest today with the announcing our semifinalists for the 2016 Military Child of the Year® Award. So without further ado, here they are:

 

ARMY

Mary T., 17, Wahiawa, Hawaii

Elissa N., 16, Sparta, Wis.

Hunter H., 14, Lansing, Kan.

Emalee H., 17, Elizabethtown, Ky.

Asia H., 12, West Point, N.Y.

Lorelei M., 10, Duncannon, Pa.

Jaccob H., 15, Saucier, Miss.

Gabrielle L., 17, Shavano Park, Texas

Hannah J., 17, Valrico, Fla.

Olivia D., 18, Hattiesburg, Miss.

Amari M., 15, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Elizabeth O., 17, Aberdeen, N.C.

Jennifer L., 17, Enterprise, Ala.

Paris S., 8, Cameron, N.C.

Antoinette K., 10, Vine Grove, Ky.

 

MARINE CORPS

 Carson B., 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Summer L., 17, Kailua, Hawaii

Christian F., 9, Quantico, Va.

Peter B., 18, Havelock, N.C.

Grace F., 17, Swansboro, N.C.

Haylee M., 12, San Diego, Calif.

Matthew C., 17, Jacksonville, N.C.

Caitlyn T., 14, Quantico, Va.

Cherita W., 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

GaBryella D., 13, Temecula, Calif.

Jewell D., 15, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Madison A., 13, Fredericksburg, Va.

Jenna A., 12, Houston, Texas

Jackson B., 16, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

 

NAVY

Elizabeth E., 15, Mc Donald, Pa.

Mariah W., 17, New Bern, N.C.

Isabelle R., 11, Jamul, Calif.

Evan P. 17, Phoenix, Ariz.

Benedict C., 17, Coronado, Calif.

Victoria B., 17, Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Jeffrey B., 17, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Michael J., 17, Stafford, Va.

Benjamin P., 17, Lakeland, Tenn.

Samantha R., 18, Fleming Island, Fla.

Alexsandra C., 17, Springfield, Va.

Adriel M., 17, O Fallon, Ill.

Gavin M., 18, Virginia Beach, Va.

Ty B., 14, FPO, AE, Rota, Spain

Sydney C., 8, Jacksonville, Fla.

 

AIR FORCE

Madeline G., 18, Springfield, Va.

Grace R., 11, APO, AE, Ramstein, Germany

Bethany S., 18, Beale AFB, Calif.

David Z. , 17, San Antonio, Texas

Lacey L., 17, Milton, Fla.

Bridget R., 17, Burke, Va.

Caroline S., 10, Las Vegas, Nev.

Jordyn M., 9

Makayla J., 9, Ruther Glen, Va.

Jamal B., 17, Hill AFB, Utah

Hailie W., 16, Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Madeleine M., 17, Moorestown, N.J.

Tristan T., 15, Sahuarita, Ariz.

Alyssa O., 16, Panama City, Fla.

Matthew N., 17, Spokane, Wash.

 

COAST GUARD

John M., 17, Annapolis, Md.

Spenser R., 18, Davie, Fla.

Chase M., 17, McLean, Va.

Kievon B., 15, Lodi, N.J.

Jessica P., 17, West Seneca, N.Y.

Gabriel N., 13, Bennington, Vt.

Jackson H., 15, Jacksonville, Fla.

Keegan F., 17, Fairhaven, Mass.

Jessie P., 16, Bayamon, Puerto Rico

Liam C., 13, New Orleans, La.

Olivia K., 18, Grangeville, Idaho

Kylie M., 14, Trenton, N.J.

Ashley F., 17, Warrenton, Ore.

Qur’Annah J., 17, Frankfort, Ill.

Giavanna V., 10, Mystic, Conn.

 

NATIONAL GUARD 

Joshua T., 15, Rolla, Mo.

Michelle G., 18, Green Cove Springs, Fla.,

Tymber L., 18, Lincoln, Neb.

John L., 17, Ellensburg, Wash.

Madeline N., 18, Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Nathan M., 17, Orange Park, Fla.

Mya K., 18, Yorba Linda, Calif.

Lily M., 14, Portland, Ore.

Sarah B., 17, Glen Carbon, Ill.

Molly F., 15, Pickerington, Ohio

Madison O., 9, Pembroke, N.H.

Sydney L., 17, Lincoln, Neb.

Jodi J., 17, Pleasant Grove, Utah

Amelia B., 15, Saint Augustine, Fla.

Jordan G., 8, Virginia Beach, Va.

 

So now that we have our 90 semifinalists, what’s next?

Each semifinalist will be interviewed by a team selected by Operation Homefront staff. Award recipients will be chosen by a panel of judges, to include senior retired service members, senior spouses, members of Operation Homefront’s board of directors, and other leaders in the military support community.

The top 5 finalists from each branch will be announced in February.  Winners will be announced in March and then on to the big gala in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2016.

This year, the gala will present the inaugural Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Award for Military Children. The Booz Allen Innovation Award for Military Children will go to a military child who has designed a bold, creative solution to address a local, regional or global challenge. With a new invention, improvement to existing technology, creation of a new nonprofit or community service group or expansion of an existing membership organization, the winner will show the power of innovative thinking. Booz Allen will award a grant to the winner and host the winner at the Booz Allen Innovation Center in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Booz Allen employees will assist the winner in helping to scale or advance the project.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the Military Child of the Year Award and read about our past recipients at www.militarychildoftheyear.org.  Or check our pictures from last year’s festivities here.

Congratulations to all of our Military Child of the Year semi-finalists! Great job!

 

 

In the weeks before Christmas, throughout this great land.

Our elves on the homefront were lending a hand…

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Holiday Meals were bagged up and stuffed

To give to the families we can’t thank enough…

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Wishes were granted and moments were shared

Letting military families know that all of us cared… 

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The smiles of the families and joy that abounded

Reminded us all of the mission we founded…

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To remember the many who serve so we remain free

Who won’t be home this year to decorate their tree… 

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We hope you are home soon and with loved ones so dear,

Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!

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Thank you for helping Operation Homefront build strong, stable, and secure military families – all year long.

Special thanks this year to

Dollar Tree, Walmart, BeamSuntory, Amazon, CDW, Loves Travel Stops and Country Store,

Thirty-One, Ocean Spray, Navy Federal Credit Union, Samuel Adams, RetailMeNot.

 

Guest blog, Nate Richards, 2012 Navy Military Child of the Year, age 12

This military kid is not crazy about dealing with the holidays. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and New Year’s! Lots of nice people and “Good Cheer.”

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According to Nate (far right, front), military kids can’t always have the traditional Christmas but with a little ingenuity their families can still be together and celebrate.

But when you’re a military kid it can be tough. Your parent can be deployed or one or more of your brothers won’t be home because of leave or deployment. It can be really challenging to get in the spirit.

So, my family has come up with some “awesometacullar” ways of still having traditions, not your normal ones but they are Richards’ military family ones. FYI, these are traditions that can usually change from year to year (Haha).

My favorite part about Christmas when I was little, was having everyone home to decorate the tree and have hot chocolate while listening to really old Christmas music. My older brothers are a bunch of comedians. So, it was always loud and lots of laughter. I think being a military kid taught me that you can still celebrate and be jolly even if things aren’t the way you remember or want them to be.

Our family has many new traditions when it comes to Christmas. We get our iPads and phones into the living room and then FaceTime whichever brothers can’t be home. We turn on the Christmas music LOUD so they can hear it.

We still make hot chocolate and then Isabelle and I become the ornament runners. Bubbu says put that one on the top left, Max will say put mine by John’s. Charlie is usually cracking jokes about something and the fact that he is on Santa’s naughty list.

Last year, My Dada got to watch us open our present from Santa via Skype. We made an awesome care package for My Dada. It had a small tree and Isabelle made Christmas ornaments. She also made some cookies for him.

That was how the traditions started for 2013 and 2014. This year, we will figure out how it will roll in the Richards’ house for 2015. We know already one brother is on deployment standby and another is in Navy A school too far away to come home. So it looks like the elf ornament runners will get another shot at decorating the tree via iPad (Hahaha).  Who knows what other new traditions will be started. I am pretty sure some of you have pretty unique ways of celebrating too. I hope you post them and maybe for all the kids that will not be together with their families, they can learn a new idea and start a new holiday tradition in their house.

I am really lucky to be a military kid that has so many brothers that serve as well as my Dada. We can’t always have the traditional Christmas but with a little ingenuity we can still be together and celebrate. No Black Friday shopping for us, or being sad. Just a day to figure out new ways to celebrate together.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Nate the Great

 

Nominations are being accepted for the 2016 Military Child of the Year award through December 11, 2015, 11:45pm CST. Nominations may be made by parents, other family members, teachers, counselors, coaches, community officials, church leaders, neighbors and others. For more information, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org.

 

Tgiving 2015

As we all gather to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, we want to take a moment to share words of thanks from our families:

“Thank you for your generosity, it means so much for military families to receive gifts from those who care about those of us who serve our country!!” Marc, California.

“We really just wanted to say a tremendous heartfelt thank you for all you have done to help us … We can never thank you or Operation Homefront enough, you helped to set our mind at ease through this whole process and for the first time in over a month we can rest easy knowing our family will be safe and comfortable … thanks to all of your efforts.” –Crystal and David, Virginia.

“Being in the military for over 22 years I missed a lot of family time. I don’t think I’ve ever been home to celebrate one of my 18-year-old daughter’s birthdays with her. So when an organization such as yours gives these opportunities to be with our families it is always a special time for us. (Our) family thanks you for the gifts and special day. We look forward to several more of those cherished family days that we missed out on over the years. God bless and thank you.” Tim, West Virginia.

“I’m just heartened to see veterans getting the chances to try to live out their lives in peace and without the stress of worry. Keep up the good work!” Raven, Tennessee.

“Operation Homefront is a blessing for all of us wounded veterans. My wife and I (were) unbelievably blessed to be expecting identical twin boys. Just when I then shock wore off and financial burden rose, Operation Homefront blessed us with an amazing baby shower to prepare us for the road ahead. Every bit counts, and we cannot ever thank you all enough!” Joseph.

“I just wanted to thank you for the incredible help you and your organization provided my family. I am positive we would have suffered so much distress without the compassion and aid extended to us. I really can’t put to words just how grateful we all are … know that you have made a real difference in our lives and we will never forget.” Rachel.

“You never gave up on us and we will be forever grateful to you and Operation Homefront for helping us with our home. Thank you so much for everything you have done … you’re an angel.” -Lisa, Virginia.

“Thank you again. A huge stress has been lifted off of my shoulders. I cried when we got off the phone. It is so amazing to talk to caring people who want to help. What you did for me and my son means more than you know. Have an awesome Christmas and New Year.” –Michelle, Florida.

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The Operation Homefront family wishes to express our heartfelt thanks to our community, donors and partners who help us share our nation’s gratitude with our men and women in uniform when they need it the most. If you would like to help these families during the holiday season, when their needs are often the greatest, please consider a donation or helping with one of our Current Needs.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Hit Worse Than A Bullet.

Vets-Day_SquareU.S. Army Specialist Justin Purifoythompson was in the 11th grade when the terrorist attacks on 9/11 occurred. He was so upset about the innocent children who lost their lives that he worked to graduate early so he could serve his country. Justin enlisted U.S. Marine Corps and then later joined the U.S. Army.

During his 13 years of service, Justin deployed six times to Iraq. He survived three roadside bombs, seven concussions, and being shot three times. But it was a hit more powerful than a bullet that eventually brought his service to an end.

Justin was living in Germany and getting ready for his seventh deployment when he started experiencing some strange health symptoms. He was shocked when he diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. The doctors don’t know how or why he got the disease, but it meant he could no longer serve in the military.

Justin moved from Germany to Texas, so he could receive proper medical care at San Antonio Military Medical Center. Around the same time, he went through a divorce which left him in a tough place financially. Others around him said he’d be a good match for rent-free housing at the Operation Homefront Village in San Antonio. He applied and was accepted.

Living at the Operation Homefront Villages gave Justin a secure place from which to start over. After only four months at the Village, he said his bank account had already started filling back up. He was able to save $14,000 and bring his family over from Germany. As time went by, he was able to build a home, find post-military employment, and most importantly, get back to being “Dad” for his children.

“The Villages helped significantly — helped my family become stronger, more stable and more secure while in transition,” said Justin.

“Operation Homefront gave me and my family a new start,” said Purifoythompson. “If we weren’t here, we’d be in a big hole.”

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Operation Homefront is honored to be able to answer the call of our brave men and women in uniform when they need it the most. We are able to do so because of the amazing supporters who stand beside us. If you would like to help answer the call, join us at operationhomefront.net/answerthecall

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