Today, we are thrilled to share with you a blog piece by our President and C.E.O., John Pray, Jr. on how working together, we can build strong, stable and secure military families.
At Operation Homefront, we are driven to meet the needs of our veterans, service members and their families in their time of need because they have done so much to serve all of us in our nation’s time of need. Their stories matter as this amazing group of our fellow citizens chose to put our needs ahead of theirs and expect very little in return for their service. Veterans Melissa and Aaron Schafer of Chattanooga, TN are members of this very special group.
Growing up in a military family, Melissa enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1998 as a military police officer and experienced her first active duty tour in 2002. She subsequently enlisted in the Reserves, deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 and was honorably discharged in 2008 after being diagnosed with major arthritis in her back.
During her last year in service, Melissa met Aaron, who also served as a Military Police Officer in the Army. They have been married for seven years and have three children. Like many military families transitioning back to their civilian communities, they worked hard, but were finding it difficult to make ends meet for their family of five.
I met the Schafers in September, when we presented them the deed for a mortgage-free home after successfully completing our two-year Homes on the Homefront program. We were joined by our long-time partner Chase, as well as Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, on this special day.
“It’s a dream that I never thought would happen. It helped us focus on other things and prioritize. This home has become financially and emotionally rewarding for me and my family.” said Melissa. “It has given us the opportunity to be successful homeowners (and) assisted us in reducing our debt and building a better future.”
Military families have earned the opportunity to thrive, not simply struggle to get by, in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. For many this means needing temporary help with mortgage and rent payments, utilities, grocery bills, and car and home repairs.
Throughout 2016, we experienced a dramatic increase in the number of applications and requests for assistance that has put significant pressure on our ability to meet their critical needs.
Almost as soon as Hurricane Matthew left the eastern coast in October, we began to receive applications for assistance from military families across Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia seeking our help.
“Because of Hurricane Matthew we have lost all of our food and perishables due to power outages as well as it’s a struggle just to provide food monthly in general,” wrote one applicant.
“We have been without power for roughly 4 days and all of our food has gone bad. At this time, we cannot afford to replace all of our food due to all of the moving costs,” wrote another who had just moved to the area.
We know it’s never easy to ask for help even when you are going through a rough patch.
“Veterans and soldiers are very self-sufficient group,” wrote one client in a thank you email. “If they seek out Operation Homefront for assistance, then you are their last resort and they have already exhausted all other avenues… To have OH come through makes a world of difference. By you providing a temporary assistance, it made a huge difference in my life. My confidence is back, and the world turned for the positive for me. This was just through OH helping me for the one month that I couldn’t figure out.”
These are the types of success stories we work so hard to make possible.
Beginning Veterans Day, you will get a chance to read powerful stories of 11 military families whose lives have been made strong, stable and secure by Operation Homefront. I hope all our donors feel very connected to those we are able to help and recognize the key role they play in making these wonderful stories happen.
Operation Homefront’s mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families so they can thrive in the communities that they’ve worked so hard to protect. Learn more about the impact we are having and how you can help.