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Archive for March, 2016

As he turns the key on his new home, Raphael Harris and his wife, Yesica, can see a new beginning and a fresh start. Not too long ago, they were once a family geographically separated and facing many financial and medical challenges. That was before they found out about our Operation Homefront Village.

RaphaelVillagesBlogRaphael is a military brat and grew up in South Carolina before his family moved to Alabama. After graduation, he decided to join the military and he became a Marine at age 17.

Raphael was first stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and then Camp Pendleton in California. During a deployment to Afghanistan, he was injured when an improvised explosive device caused the vehicle he was riding in to roll over. As a result of his injuries and trauma, Raphael was medically retired from the Marines after four years of service.

Transitioning out of the military can be difficult for anyone, and Raphael’s family was no exception. Raphael became friends with a service member who was also transitioning from the Marines. He told Raphael about Operation Homefront and how we offered rent-free transitional housing at our Operation Homefront Village in California. Raphael thought this might be a great solution for his family, so he put in an application, and was accepted into our program.

“Before coming to the Village, I was (away) from my wife, who was back in Alabama,” said Raphael. “We had a lot of debt.”

Our Village program provides rent-free, utilities paid, fully furnished apartments to wounded, injured, and ill veterans leaving the military. It is designed to enable families to heal together, while bridging the gap between military pay and veteran benefits.

While living at the Village, Raphael not only saved $15,000, but he was also able to reduce his debt by $15,000. “This is an amazing program which helped fill in the gaps during my transition and helping me to be more stable,” added Raphael. “I would recommend it to anyone who is qualified to apply.”

Raphael has since graduated from our Village program. Recently, he and his wife were able to realize a dream and bought a home in San Antonio, Texas. He continues his care at the VA and is going back to school where he will pursue a master’s degree that allows him to counsel wounded warriors with severe post-traumatic stress.

As with the Harris family, when veterans graduate from our Village program, they will have VA benefits in place, debt significantly reduced, and emergency savings available.

“In 2015, Operation Homefront served 111 military families through our transitional housing program,” said Senior Director of Transitional Housing Gracie Broll. “Our goal at Operation Homefront is to ensure our military families remain strong, stable, and secure throughout transition from military to civilian life. We do this by walking hand-in-hand with each family while providing them with the tools and resources needed for success.”

While the Harris family has settled into their new home and new beginnings, their story can inspire other families who are still in transition.

HectorVillagesBlogRetired U.S. Marine Sergeant Hector Perez deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan during his term of service. On a deployment to Afghanistan, “A road side bomb detonated and hit my vehicle and I was injured – spinal cord injuries, neural damage to my left leg and left eye, and some TBI and PTSD as well,” he said.

Like many in his situation, Hector was caught off guard and struggled to make ends meet during the transition process. Hector heard about our Operation Homefront Village from his recovery care coordinator and applied. He moved into the new Operation Homefront Village in San Diego, which celebrated its Grand Opening in January. There, he found relief and a way to get back on track with his life.

“It’s safe, it’s beautiful, it’s near all the VA (offices) I need,” said Hector. “Being a part of this community will help our family transition from active duty to retired tremendously.”

While at our Village, Hector will receive help to get control over his budget, reduce debt, and stabilize his treatment at the VA. He will also be given the tools and training he needs to establish a savings account and develop a plan for future housing.

“We will be able to focus on stabilizing income, bringing current debt down to a minimum, live in a safe environment with others in same position and continue care for disabilities,” added Hector. With the right supports in place, Hector now has hope for a bright future.

For many other families just like Hector and Raphael’s, our Villages provide a supportive environment, relieve the financial stress and provide a comprehensive package of individualized family support and financial planning services. Operation Homefront has Villages in three locations: Gaithersburg, Maryland; San Diego, California; and San Antonio, Texas. Since opening our first Village in March 2008, we have transitioned 453 families, which includes 724 military children.

View more pictures from the San Diego open house. Learn more about the Operation Homefront Villages.

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BAHInnov2

Operation Homefront and Booz Allen Hamilton are pleased to announce that the inaugural recipient of the Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Award for Military Children is Elizabeth O’Brien, of Aberdeen, NC.

 

The Operation Homefront-Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Award for Military Children goes 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 shows the power of innovative thinking.

BAHInnov1Elizabeth’s innovation is the Military Child Access Assistance Program. In partnership with the nonprofit Military Missions in Action (MMIA), this program provides accessibility ramps and other home modifications to children’s homes, which are not covered by Tricare. In addition, Elizabeth developed the Hike2Help 5K, which has raised over $7,000 and funded three accessibility ramps, in addition to other accessibility modifications.

Booz Allen Hamilton will host Elizabeth at their Innovation Center in Washington, D.C. on April 13. Additionally, Booz Allen Hamilton employees will assist the winner to scale or advance her project. She will receive a $5,000 grant and be recognized at the Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year® Awards Gala on April 14.

Congratulations to Elizabeth!

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1.  During the harsh winter of 1779-1780, General George Washington realized that his troops needed a morale boost, so he gave his soldiers one day off — St. Patrick’s Day. The date already held special significance for Washington. Four years prior, on March 17, 1776, the general had his first major strategic victory when he chased the British out of Boston. (Painting of The March to Valley Forge by William Trego, 1883 (Museum of the American Revolution.)

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2.   One-third to one-half of the American troops during the Revolutionary War were Irish-Americans. One well known Irish-American, Andrew Pickens, joined another Irishmen, Francis Marion in leading the most daring group of soldiers during the war. (Oil Painting of Gen. Andrew Pickens, 1720-1817, hangs in Fort Hill in Clemson, South Carolina.)

 

3.  Eight of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Irish-Americans.  (The original Declaration of Independence can be seen in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.)

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4.  Irish-Americans fought in the Civil War, as memorialized, in part, by the Irish Brigade monuments. (The monument pictured here is located at Antietam National Park, a National Battlefield in Maryland.)

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5.  Ten U.S. presidents have claimed Irish heritage and the position of commander-in-chief. Probably the best known president of Irish heritage, John F. Kennedy, the 35th president, had great-grandparents on both sides of the family who were born in Ireland. (Portrait of John F. Kennedy (1967) by American artist Jamie Wyeth, on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.)

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Sources:

Irish Heritage Month Proclamation

https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-117/pdf/STATUTE-117-Pg3008.pdf

Irish Soldiers in the Union Army

http://www.nps.gov/resources/story.htm?id=209

Irish Brigade Monument

http://www.nps.gov/anti/learn/historyculture/mnt-ny-irish-brig.htm

Irish in Washington’s Continental Army

http://www.history.com/news/george-washingtons-revolutionary-st-patricks-day

Easter Rising Mention

http://www.stpatsparade.org/

 

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It is always a special day when we get to announce the recipients of our annual Military Child of the Year ® Award. Every year, we are awed by the accomplishments of all our nominees, and it never gets easier choosing just six to represent the virtues of resiliency, leadership and achievement that we know are exhibited every day by military children around the world. But choose we must, and so without further ado, it is our great honor to present this year’s recipients for the Military Child of the Year award for each branch of service:

MCOY Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer army website image 225 x 281ARMY

Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer

 

 

 

 

MCOY christian fagala marines website image 225 x 281MARINE CORPS

Christian Fagala

 

 

 

 

MCOY jeffrey burds navy website image 225 x 281NAVY

Jeffrey Burds

 

 

 

 

MCOY Madeleine Morlino2 AF website image 225 x 281AIR FORCE                                                                          

Madeleine Morlino

 

 

 

 

MCOY aaron fike CG website image 225 x 281COAST GUARD

Keegan Fike

 

 

 

 

MCOY john trip landon NG website image 225 x 281NATIONAL GUARD

John “Trip” Landon III

 

 

 

 

“The children in our military families demonstrate the best in our society and our Military Child of the Year® Award recipients are extraordinary representatives of this spirit of selfless service,” said Brig Gen (ret) John I. Pray, Jr., president and CEO of Operation Homefront. “They perform at a very high level both in and out of school while simultaneously dealing with parental deployments, recurring relocations, and other challenges associated with military life. I can’t wait to meet these outstanding young people and present them with their well-deserved awards.”

Each award recipient will receive $10,000 and will be flown with a parent or guardian to Washington, D.C., for a special recognition gala on April 14. United Technologies Corp. is the presenting sponsor for the Military Child of the Year® Awards Gala. Other sponsors are Wounded, Warrior Project, Southern New Hampshire University, Murphy-Goode Winery, MidAtlanticBroadband, La Quinta Inns & Suites, and Aflac. Operation Homefront will also present the inaugural Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Award for Military Children at the gala, the recipient of which will be announced next week.

Check back soon as we spotlight each recipient heading up to our awards gala in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2016.

Congratulations to all of our recipients!

 

 

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Carrie Underwood took time to meet Antwon Speller and his family, giving him and his family, helping to lift them out of the challenges of dealing with the wounds of war.

Carrie Underwood took time to meet Antwon Speller and his family, giving him and his family a much needed break, and helping to lift them out of the challenges of dealing with the wounds of war.

“Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.” – Elton John

For a few hours one Saturday night, music brought peace to one very deserving military family.

As part of our partnership with Carnival Cruise Line and country superstar Carrie Underwood, select military families get a personal meet-and-greet with Underwood before her concerts. One such moment occurred at Underwood’s sold-out concert in Hampton, Virginia. The email we received from the Speller family afterwards validates the quote above, and why partnerships like this truly make a difference.

being around someone that has taken out their time to just get to know about you, and appreciate what you do for your country is so meaningful to me.”

We hear from many of our nations’ wounded and their families about feelings of isolation they experience trying to cope with both the seen and unseen wounds of war day in and day out. As simple as it may seem, a night out, especially one where these amazing families can connect and feel appreciated can be life-changing.

“However, I was in extreme pain but I wasn’t going to allow anything to ruin this moment, we all enjoyed an electrified experience that only comes once in a life time.” 

Anyone who has been in pain can tell you, its constant presence in your life can wear down even the strongest among us. Routine functions that many of us take for granted become monumental tasks. As time goes on, feelings of hopelessness can seep in as one begins to question whether there will ever be an end to the pain. Anything that takes the focus off the pain, even for a brief period of time, allows for a refocus and much-needed breather that can remind one that there is more to life and that it can and will get better.

Honestly, I just want to cry, for real, it has been a very rough couple of weeks for me, but as Ashley (Operation Homefront representative) said to me, ‘this is what makes all things worth all the while’… and she was absolutely right.”

Perhaps the time to spend together as a family, making memories, with a few hours of no worries, no pain… just joy… are what will be the catalyst to help someone through dark times. Give them something beautiful to hold onto when it is all too easy and understandable that one may want to give up.

“..all I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you guys.”

We suspect that when asked, most artists would answer that they just want to touch someone through their craft, to have an impact. That happened this Saturday night in Virginia, and we know it will happen again throughout Carrie’s “Storyteller” tour. In fact, check out this heartwarming interview with another of our families after their concert experience in D.C.


We appreciate the support of Carnival Cruise Line and Carrie Underwood as we continue to focus on building strong, stable and secure military families and the needs of our nation’s wounded veterans.

Learn more about our partnership with Carrie Underwood and Carnival Cruises

Check out Carrie on tour at a city near you.

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