He had planned to be a Marine for 20 years, and then retire. His wife was beside him all the way and supported his goal. And all family decisions, including financial ones, were based on being a military family for the next 20 years.
But then everything changed.
He deployed to Afghanistan, was injured, and then told that he would be discharged. As the shock set in, the couple had no idea where they would live, when VA benefits would start, or how they would pay their bills. They had no “plan B” for what they would do if 20 years ended early.
Their story is more common than one might think. And it’s the reason why Operation Homefront established our transitional housing program, and set up rent-free Operation Homefront Villages for families like this one. Operation Homefront Villages are currently operated in three locations across the country:
- San Diego, CA – serves those primarily at Balboa Hospital and Camp Pendleton
- Gaithersburg, MD – serves those primarily at Walter Reed Military Medical Center at NSA Bethesda
- San Antonio, TX – serves those primarily at San Antonio Military Medical Center and Audie Murphy VA Hospital
The Operation Homefront Villages, which consist of approximately around 15 apartments within a complex, allow wounded, ill, and injured service members and their families to live rent-free while they transition from military to civilian life. The apartments are fully furnished, with utility services, internet access, cable TV, telephone service, and all of the comforts of home provided. And these families have support from other military families who are residents for the same reason. They can connect and encourage each other while they all undergo a similar transition to a new life. Our mission at Operation Homefront is to build strong, stable, and secure military families and the Operation Homefront Villages help bridge the gap at an important turning point in these families’ lives.
When a service member becomes a resident at one of our villages, Operation Homefront counselors set up a plan for the family to follow. They attend support groups, and workshops that help them review their benefits or write their resumes. Residents also receive one-on-one financial counseling to reduce debt and build savings. For many of the residents, they need time to adjust to the idea of life outside the military. They need to build up their savings and decide where they really want to live. They also need time to decide on a career path and sometimes make plans to attend school. The Operation Homefront Villages give them the freedom and space to do that.
“Operation Homefront counselors meet with each military family every 30 days to review where they are in the transition process and determine their ability to live on their own,” said Gracie Broll, senior director of transitional housing. “Once they have become self-sufficient, our counselors help them find suitable housing in the area they intend to live on a permanent basis.”
“Upon completion of the program, veterans and their families should have VA benefits in place, debt significantly reduced, and emergency savings in place,” added Broll.
This year alone, Operation Homefront Villages have provided 504 months of rent-free, fully furnished housing to 87 military families who, combined, are raising 155 military kids.
“A little over a year ago my kids and I arrived at one of the Operation Homefront Villages. The thing about Operation Homefront… I was never just a number. A name. A statistic. A random check or donation. (They) made an investment in me. In my life. In my future. On a deeply personal level,” said Nathan, a resident at our Village in Maryland.
In our upcoming blog series, “11 days. 11 stories,” we’ll share with you the stories of some of our families and their journey through service, injury, recovery and transition. You will hear about how supporters like you have changed lives. The series begins Wednesday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, and features a different family every day and shows how Operation Homefront Villages improve the course of the future for these families.
If you would like more information about Operation Homefront Villages, please email our Transitional Housing Program. If you would like to help families like these, give a gift here. We are grateful to so many partners that provide resources like educational benefits, employment readiness, family and individual counseling, peer to peer support, financial management, benefits assistance and morale building.