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Archive for January, 2015

(Reflections from Operation Homefront staff members who saw the movie this weekend.)

Art. It can inspire. Or disturb. It is meant to generate strong feelings in the viewer. And the movie American Sniper has definitely generated plenty of those.

american_sniper_ver2The movie, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, America’s most well-known sniper, is still seeing record attendance at the box office since it opened two weekends ago.

Some have wept. Some have been stunned into silence. Others have cheered and felt inspired. And still others were angered, disgusted. Some pundits in the public eye have taken shots to discredit the man, the movie and by extension the military. That is difficult to stomach, if you carry a strong pride for the military, like many of us do.

THE DISCONNECT

One thing is clear from the numerous voices chiming in on the movie: there is still a difference in processing what has occurred through 13 years of war. One line in the movie aptly illustrates the disconnect between most Americans and the war “over there.”

In one scene, Kyle has come back from his first tour and he and his wife have just left the doctor’s office for her pregnancy check-up. Kyle says, “There are people dying over there and I look around and it’s like it’s not even happening. It’s barely on the news, no one talks about it. They’re all on their cell phones. No one cares. And if I stay too long, I’ll forget about it too…We’re at war and I’m headed to the mall.”

THE SACRIFICE

Before his death in 2013, Kyle found out the movie was going to be made. He said, “I hope…that the movie will give people a small understanding of the massive sacrifice these guys make in going to war. It’s hard to comprehend the journey and hardship these servicemen and their families go through…If this movie can offer a small window into that world, I’ll be very happy.*”

Unless you’ve lived the military life, you can’t comprehend the sacrifice of service members and their families. Months apart. Sleepless nights. Wondering if this good-bye will be the last. Knowing too many for whom it was. And then, once home, battling the wounds and scars that continue inside the mind.

This movie conveys that sacrifice in a way most Americans can understand. That’s critical for our service members who continue to deploy, if even on a smaller scale, and for those who bear the seen and unseen wounds of making that sacrifice. 

THE WAIT

In the movie, Kyle, like many service members, is torn between his family needing him at home and the desire to watch over Marines as they patrol and clear the streets of Fallujah and Ramadi. Kyle felt a strong urge to protect his country and by extension, his family, though they struggled as a result.

“God, country, family – isn’t that what you guys always say? Let me know when that order changes.” Kyle’s wife Taya was forced to manage on the homefront without her husband and, at times, detested taking a back seat to the military. The sense of duty service members feel stirs up both pride and frustration in the ones who wait for their return. The loneliness can be excruciating and there is no easy solution.

THE AFTERMATH

Bobby Henline, wounded warrior, friend of Operation Homefront and star of the film Comedy Warriors had this comment about the movie, “…how real the home life with his family was and how real it was for him to deal with his PTSD triggers, that’s what really hit home with me… It reminded me that I haven’t come home yet. Don’t know if I totally ever will. It’s harder for me when I’m around my family then when I’m alone or with military friends…I left my family three more times after I was wounded to go overseas to the troops. It was easy and it’s sad that it’s easy to do that.”

Hundreds of thousands of military families feel the effects of war:  Post-Traumatic Stress; Traumatic Brain Injury; bodily injuries and death; and financial and emotional struggles. That’s where Operation Homefront is able to help with programs for caregivers, free transitional housing, and emergency financial assistance.

THE REALITY OF A DANGEROUS WORLD

The shootings in France, the periodic beheadings, the ongoing threats are all reminders that evil is always brewing just below the surface. And we need brave men and women who are willing to lay down their lives to combat the dark forces that plague our world. Our way of life, the freedoms we enjoy, have been earned through sacrifice that few will experience for themselves. And that’s ok.

And for the ones who choose to serve, we should always stand and applaud them. By coming out in record numbers, Americans are bearing witness. They are connecting. And we hope they continue.

The story is about Chris Kyle, but we all should be able to agree on one thing. This movie is rekindling a pride in our service members, a small understanding of the sacrifices our military makes and the reminder that they need our support beyond packing the theater and posting Internet missives.

Rest in peace, Chris. Thank you.

*Quote from the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, by C

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We asked. You heard and responded. Thank you for answering the call!

On Giving Tuesday last month, we announced that our friends at Murphy-Goode Winery had offered a $100,000 match for donations to Operation Homefront. Many of you jumped on board and gave! And we met our match…quickly…with flying colors!

But it’s more than just dollars and numbers. It affects real people, like:

  • Amanda, a single mom from Arkansas, who joined the Army and was injured while deployed. Operation Homefront helped her with food, diapers, and her mortgage payment, helping her get back on her feet again.
  • David, a sailor from Arizona, who has a long legacy of military service in his family. He was injured while serving on an aircraft carrier, underwent many surgeries and got caught up in VA delays with no money to make ends meet. We helped him with food, utilities and travel costs for his medical appointments.
  • Sean, a wounded Marine from Illinois, who joined the service after Sept. 11. He battles PTSD and brain cancer. Operation Homefront helped him with car repairs so he could get to his medical appointments.

And the list goes on and includes thousands of families we’ve been honored to serve. We asked you to answer the call and you responded. When you gave to Operation Homefront, you helped them too. You played a part in making life a little easier for our military families and wounded warriors.

So, from us to you, thank you!

And thank you to Murphy-Goode for generously supporting our military families for another year!

Assistance is in the form of grants, not loans, and covers some of the most basic of needs like food, rent, utilities, and critical home repairs. Transitional and permanent mortgage-free housing, as well as family and caregiver support, round out the host of services our organization provides to thousands of military and veteran families each year. Donations can be made using our online donation form or given to our ongoing list of Current Needs.

 

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Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’” Martin Luther King, Jr.

This third Monday of January, we recognize the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Over the years, it has also become a day to honor his legacy by encouraging a day of community service, “a day on, not a day off.”

A common theme expressed throughout his speeches is simply recognizing the value of each other. That we all have worth, that we all can be a driving force for change, and that together, we can overcome the seemingly impossible. One way to do that is through service and giving back.

military-counsellingMaking a difference is not just about money, or time, or goods supplied, although all of those certainly have the most immediate impact. The support that helps us fix a family’s only car while dad is deployed, or helps an injured soldier keep the roof over his family’s head while he recovers and navigates the VA leviathan is critical. But what is often overlooked is the enduring impact that the support of our community has: the connection we make with another human being at a time when they are most vulnerable and even hopeless.

Dr. King’s words often expressed the feeling one has when they don’t feel they have options, or value. When they feel overlooked or abandoned. Our families are always relieved and grateful for the financial assistance they receive, but what they often remark upon, at times, quite emotionally, is how much it matters that someone cared. That they are not alone, and how, when ready, they intend to pay it forward.

This is how we begin to change the world. One family, one hand lifting up another, one message of hope that can be passed on.

Through service and giving back, we see each other more clearly, and achieve deeper understanding of our individual journeys. Volunteering brings together people who might not otherwise have an opportunity to meet. It is in these encounters that we weave the connections that strengthen our communities and help begin solving what can seem overwhelming.

It will take more than one day, once a year, but today can be a start.

Here are some links to help you find opportunities near you:

For information on getting involved with Operation Homefront’s mission, click here http://www.operationhomefront.net/getinvolved

Points of Light has helped millions of volunteers change the world. They mobilize people to take action on the causes they care about through innovative programs, events and campaigns. Points of Light is creating a culture of volunteerism, one that celebrates the power of service. http://www.pointsoflight.org/

VolunteerMatch strengthens communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect. The organization offers a variety of online services to support a community of nonprofit, volunteer and business leaders committed to civic engagement http://www.volunteermatch.org/

Serve.gov, the online home of United We Serve, is managed by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency charged with promoting and fostering volunteering and national service in America http://www.serve.gov/

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Operation Homefront is proud to announce the semi-finalists for the 2015 Military Child of the Year® Award. These young men and women, ages 8-18, are making BIG impacts in their communities, not just in the US, but globally.  All while juggling the challenges of military life. Truly inspiring.

Join us in congratulating:

ARMY

Joseph C. – age 14 – Colleyville, Texas

Leslie C. – age 17 – Colorado Springs, Colo.

Johnily C. – age 11 – Nolanville, Texas

Savannah H. – age 15 – Coal Valley, Ill.

Haleigh H. – age 17 – Cadiz, Ky.

Amanda L. – age 17 – Watertown, N.Y.

Lorelei M. – age 9 – Duncannon, Pa.

Cavan M. – age 13 – Duncannon, Pa.

Grant N. – age 14 – West Point, N.Y.

Elizabeth O. – age 16 – Fuquay Varina, N.C.

India P. – age 17 – Appling, Ga.

Elisabeth P. – age 12 – Honolulu, Hawaii

Abigail P. – age 17 – Clarksville, Tenn.

Christian S. – age 17 – Seaford, Va.

Rachel S. – age 17 – Dahlonega, Ga.

 

AIR FORCE

Joel B. – age 16 – Dover, Del.

Andre B. – age 17 – Tampa, Fla.

Jacob D. – age 16 – Norman, Okla.

Meaghan F. – age 17 – Beavercreek, Ohio

Sarah H. – age 16 – Doha, Qatar

Andrew L. – age 17 – Laurel, Md.

Jordyn M. – age 8 – Trussville, Ala.

Bethany M. – age 16 – Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.

Gabriella M. – age 17 – Tucson, Ariz.

Kristen R. – age 17 – Osan, Korea

Bridget R. – age 16 – Burke, Va.

Eddie S. – age 14 – Beavercreek, Ohio

Angelo S. – age 17 – Hainesport, N.J.

Caleb Y. – age 16 – Enid, Okla.

David Z. – age 16 – San Antonio, Texas

 

COAST GUARD

Bryn B. – age 17 – Washington, D.C.

Jesse C. – age 17 – Port Angeles, Wash.

Mary Kate C. – age 15 – Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

Emily C. – age 17 – Durham, N.H.

Ryan D. – age 11 – Wrightstown, N.J.

Madison F. – age 16 – Southgate, Mich.

Keegan F. – age 16 – Fairhaven, Mass.

Shyanne G. – age 17 – Onancock, Va.

Olivia K. – age 17 – Grangeville, Idaho

Marissa K. – age 15 – Grangeville, Idaho

John K. – age 12 – Grangeville, Idaho

Kylie M. – age 13 – Hamilton, N.J.

Ernesto M. – age 15 – Ashburn, Va.

Chase M. – age 16 – Mobile, Ala.

Caleb P. – age 18 – Pembroke Pines, Fla.

 

MARINE CORPS

Ashton B. – age 12 – Albany, N.Y.

Brianna C. – age 13 – Hill Air Force Base, Utah

Corey C. – age 16 – Havelock, N.C.

Tori E. – age 17 – Mesa, Ariz.

Adriana E. – age 13 – Havelock N.C.

Brady J. – age 17 – Alexandria, Va.

Mary K. – age 17 – Henderson, Nev.

Samuel K. – age 17 – Barre, Vt.

Lyric N. – age 8 – Indianapolis, Ind.

Destiny O. – age 17 – Quantico, Va.

Christopher-Raul R. – age 17 – Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Cezar R. – age 17 – Waynesville, Mo.

Briley R. – age 13 – Saint Paul, Minn.

Emily S. – age 16 – New Kensington, Pa.

Faith S. – age 17 – Biloxi, Miss.

 

NATIONAL GUARD

Mabelle B. – age 11 – Winter Garden, Fla.

Rachel C. – age 18 – Wellesley, Mass.

Adam C. – age 17 – Newport News, Va.

Molly F. – age 14 – Pickerington, Ohio

Brandon G. – age 16 – Newburgh, N.Y.

Michelle G. – age 17 – Colorado Springs, Colo.

Christian G. – age 11 – Fresno, Calif.

Arial J. – age 16 – Lithonia, Ga.

Sara M. – age 17 – Chicago, Ill.

Lily M. – age 13 – Portland, Ore.

Zachary P. – age 16 – Warrensburg, Mo.

Kameron P. – age 16 – Norfolk, Va.

Colette S. – age 9 – Napa, Calif.

Brianna S. – age 13 – Oregon City, Ore.

Maggie W. – age 16 – Yardley, Pa.

 

NAVY

Carson A. – age 14 – San Diego, Calif.

Victoria B. – age 16 – Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Michael C. – age 16 – Alexandria, Va.

Hailey F. – age 8 – Bremerton, Wash.

Katherine H. – age 12 – Havelock, N.C.

Emily K. – age 17 – Ocoee, Fla.

Daniel K. – age 15 – Newport, R.I.

Katlyn L. – age 17 – Virginia Beach, Va.

Corbyn M. – age 17 – Honolulu, Hawaii

Autumn O. – age 17 – Aiea, Hawaii

Isabelle R. – age 10 – Jamul, Calif.

Brendan S. – age 18 – Niantic, Conn.

Brady S. – age 17 – Virginia Beach, Va.

Kenan T. – age 17 – Bahrain

Mariah W. – age 17 – New Bern, N.C.

 

2015 marks the seventh year Operation Homefront has presented the Military Child of the Year Award. Each semi-finalist will be interviewed by Operation Homefront staff, and award recipients will be chosen by a panel of judges including senior retired service members, senior spouses, members of Operation Homefront’s Board of Directors, and other leaders in the military support community.

The Military Child of the Year® Award will be given to one outstanding military child from each category: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and National Guard. Recipients will be announced in March. Each award will receive $10,000 and will be flown with a parent or guardian to Washington, D.C. for a special recognition ceremony on April 16, 2014.

To learn more, visit our Military Child of the Year Award page.

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What better way to kick off 2015 than to help a family of service with a place to call their own? Thanks to Wells Fargo, we traveled to the heartland of America this week to award a mortgage-free home to the Williams family.

Born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina, Robert Williams was seeking a higher calling to travel and see the world. He saw an opportunity with the Army and enlisted in his hometown in 1980.

And see the world he did. Robert served in Saudi Arabia, Korea, and Germany during his 20 years of service. Though he is retired now, the tradition of service continued with his children. Their daughter served in the Air Force until her medical retirement this summer, and their son is currently active in the Army.

HothIowa3

The Williams daughter told her parents about this mortgage-free home in Iowa and encouraged them to apply to our Homes on the Homefront program.

In June of this year, Robert and his wife of 35 years, Darlene, just moved to Bettendorf, Iowa due to his current employment. They found a small apartment where they are currently living. Their daughter recently told them about the Homes on the Homefront program and that as fate would have it, there was a home to be awarded in Bettendorf. So, Robert applied, and this week, he and Darlene were awarded the mortgage-free home.

Robert and Darlene are looking forward to spending quality time with their grandchildren. They would also like to change lives through joining a local church group and make a difference in their community. Robert and Darlene add, “…it’s a second chance and they [Operation Homefront and Wells Fargo] are making dreams come true. Through this dream, they will allow us to make more dreams come true.”

Since its inception, Operation Homefront and its partners awarded over 450 homes to military and veteran families across the USA. Wells Fargo has donated more than 105 of the homes. This is the first home with Wells Fargo and Operation Homefront in Iowa. To learn more about the program, visit www.homesonthehomefront.org

HothIowa2

We’re proud to honor the service of the Williams family and know they will make a lifetime of memories in their new mortgage-free home, thanks to our partnership with Wells Fargo.

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