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Archive for November, 2016

devin-peterson-pic-2Yvette Peterson was nervous when she and her husband, Devin, decided to move. They had been living in her hometown of El Paso, Texas, and she had never lived far from her family. However, she and Devin both felt that it was time to move to Devin’s hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina.

“I was excited to be near his family and near my sister in Raleigh, but I was scared to live so far away from Texas,” Yvette said. “We were all scared. My kids didn’t want to leave their friends.”

On top of the emotional anxieties surrounding the move, Devin and Yvette were really worried about finding a place in Fayetteville once they got there. They were also struggling to meet their hefty car payments, all the while caring for their three children.

Devin served in the Army for nine years and was deployed to Iraq twice. Because of injuries he sustained while he was serving, he was medically retired from the military and no longer works.

With all of this looming over their heads and Devin unable to get a job, Yvette started to do some research. She happened to stumble across Operation Homefront (OH) and the Emergency Assistance Program, which she realized could provide them with some financial help for their move.

While she was going through the process of applying for the financial assistance, she found out about the Homes on the Homefront (HOTH) program. HOTH provides mortgage-free housing to military veterans and their families. She applied for a home in North Carolina. “I was just thinking that there was no way we were going to get this house. There was no way,” he said, laughing.

Much to Devin’s surprise, though, the Peterson’s were awarded the house before they even moved to North Carolina. Knowing that they were going to have a safe and comfortable home to live in once they got to North Carolina helped ease a lot of the stress of moving.

“The move was exciting but it was nerve-wracking at the same time,” Yvette said. “We were really excited that we would be receiving the HOTH home.”

The Peterson’s moved into their HOTH home on October 10, 2013, and have been deeply involved in Operation Homefront ever since. For the past two years, their kids have participated in the Back-to-School Brigade and received school supplies and new backpacks, giving Devin and Yvette a welcome break from the stress of provided for three young children.

Perhaps even more important than the financial relief OH has provided the Peterson’s is the emotional support that Yvette has found among the other military spouses. Last year, Yvette got to attend the Homefront Celebration, which gives military spouses an elegant night out, complete with a nice dinner and a guest speaker. Mainly, though, it gives military spouses the opportunity to get to know one another and to realize that they are not alone. Being a military spouse comes with a wide range of issues and difficulties, so attending this event gave Yvette the chance to make new friends who understand what it means to be married to a veteran.

Yvette has also found a more intimate support system among the women involved in her local Hearts of Valor group, which provides support for the family of injured veterans.

“The ladies in my group are amazing,” she said. “We’re really good friends. We’ll get together outside of the program and go get lunch or just spend time together. We had a couponing trip a couple of weeks ago!”

Just recently, Yvette actually became a peer group facilitator to help give other people the support they need to be a caregiver to an injured veteran.

Both Devin and Yvette know that without the help of Operation Homefront—between the mortgage-free home, the school supplies, and the emotional support—their lives would be very different. Because of that, they always want to give back.

“For me, personally, it’s important to show how grateful I am for receiving our HOTH home, and it’s a lot of fun,” Yvette said.

Yvette and her family volunteer for as many programs and events as they can get involved in. She also brings her oldest child, Amory, along to volunteer with her to instill in her the importance of being grateful and giving back.

“[Volunteering] also shows my kids, especially my oldest, that I give back, you know, not to be selfish, to volunteer your time and energy,” Yvette said.

Amory helps out with picking up school supplies from the local Dollar Trees and stuffing backpacks with the other volunteers for the Back-to-School Brigade.

“[Operation Homefront] is a really good organization that does great things for vets,” Devin said. “We help out with as much as we can. Everything we have we owe to Operation Homefront, so we try our best to give back as much as we can.”

Join in the conversation with us as we celebrate those veterans among us, by sharing stories of your own. Through Facebook or Twitter, please use the hashtag #11days11stories to share your own inspirational story of a veteran in your life.

 

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michael-figueroa-picIt was a day that shook our country to its core. It also motivated thousands of young American men and women to step forward to serve in the military.

Michael Figueroa is no exception.

Born in Miami, Florida, Michael wanted to make a difference after witnessing the attacks of September 11. He enlisted in the Marines a few years later and served for almost 11 years before his medical retirement.

During his time in the Marine Corps, Figueroa was deployed on two separate occasions to Fallujah, Iraq.  As with many of his fellow veterans, the wounds were not visible and took time to surface. Once back in the United States, Figueroa began to suffer from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a Traumatic Brain Injury.

It hasn’t been an easy transition for Figueroa and his family. Figueroa’s illness has caused him to be placed in a military medical treatment facility for three separate occasions causing separation from his wife, Melissa, and daughter, Olivia.

“Due to my illness, I was being medically retired prematurely,” said Figueroa. “Also because of my illness, I have cognitive problems and have to rely strongly on my wife.”

Thanks to Operation Homefront, Figueroa and his family were able to be placed in one of our rent-free transitional apartments at the Operation Homefront Village in San Diego. The villages provide a furnished apartment, financial counseling and a network of resident military families to connect with. Being at the Village served to alleviate some of the family’s transitional and financial stress.

“Receiving an apartment helped us relieve the burden of possible homelessness which in turn helps our mental and financial well-being,” said Figueroa. “In periods of extreme stress, my mind cannot handle it at times, so this has helped me and my family keep our mental stability through this transition.”

Michael was able to save $16,000 and reduce his overall debt by $5,000. He and Melissa were able to accomplish several of their financial goals and educational benefits. Their future plans are to move to Oceanside and stay actively involved in the military community. Michael is studying computer science and hopes to finish his degree at Mira Costa College.

Join in the conversation with us as we celebrate those veterans among us, by sharing stories of your own. Through Facebook or Twitter, please use the hashtag #11days11stories to share your own inspirational story of a veteran in your life.

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When Senior Airman Lakisha Williams was living in San Diego, California, with her mom, it seemed to her like everyone in her family was having problems. Lakisha was not where she wanted to be in life .

Lakisha was inspired by family members who had gone before and saw their legacy of military service. Lakisha’s mom, dad, uncle, and several cousins had all served in the military. Their service inspired Lakisha to join the military too and signed up for the Air Force.

During her Air Force career, Lakisha was stationed in San Antonio, Texas, and at F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Unfortunately, Lakisha was seriously injured and processed out of the military with a 90 percent rating from the Veterans Administration.

“I was improperly prepared to leave the military,” said Lakisha. “things were rough. The military was the best part of my life. I moved back to San Diego. I ended up being homeless for a time. My life was very sad. I was in a really bad marriage: we ended up divorced.”

lakishawilliams1But Lakisha would not give up. She started working for the local VA and becoming an advocate for other veterans. Eventually, she was offered a new job in Arizona with a significant pay raise. “I had to take the opportunity. The raise was really good and would allow me and my kids to get off assistance.”

But the move was more expensive that Lakisha had planned. She faced unexpected security deposits and advance rent payments. She first called Wounded Warrior Project to see if they could help. She was referred to Operation Homefront.

Thanks  to Operation Homefront, Lakisha and her children have settled  into their new apartment and she’s successfully working at her new job.

“When I was helping veterans to get jobs, it was hard to see veterans having to compromise, lie, or lose everything to qualify for help. I like that Operation Homefront is different and wants to know that you have a plan for the future and can move forward.”

Operation Homefront assists military families during difficult financial times by providing food assistance, auto and home repair, vision care, travel and transportation, moving assistance, essential home items, and rent-free transitional housing for wounded veterans and their families.

“I am so happy that I moved away from San Diego,” said Lakisha. She had to return for a bankruptcy hearing  and she commented, “being back today is a good reminder of why I left the area, and I can’t wait to get back to my home in Arizona.”

“Operation Homefront was able to help me quickly,” said Lakisha. “The help was much appreciated,  and I am really glad that things like this are available. Although there are lots of programs out there, like the VA, they don’t really help to prevent homelessness. Operation Homefront is the middle man—you step in where others can’t.”

Join in the conversation with us as we celebrate those veterans among us, by sharing stories of your own. Through Facebook or Twitter, please use the hashtag #11days11stories to share your own inspirational story of a veteran in your life.

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Part of the American dream has always been owning a home.

Operation Homefront’s mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families so they can thrive, not simply struggle to get by, in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. For many military families, part of the American dream is home ownership in those very communities.

Fortunately, we have partners like Meritage Homes that see the need and, for the last four years, have stepped up to make a difference by providing newly built mortgage-free homes in locations around the U.S. In doing so, they have changed the lives of of some of our military and veteran families forever!

This year, those families include Army Sergeant Jonathan Acuna, his wife Jessica, and two daughters and Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Moncrief, his wife, Mollie and their two daughters. These families were selected to receive newly-built mortgage-free homes, one near Austin, TX and the other outside Phoenix, Arizona.

meritageblog2The Acuna family received their home yesterday and the Moncrief family received their home today. Certainly a Veterans Day to remember!

Born in Galveston and raised in Stockdale, Texas, Jonathan Acuna and his family will be moving into their first owned family home. Acuna served as a military police officer protecting the health and welfare of the military families at his designated post. He was awarded a Purple Heart for actions taken during a road side bomb explosion in Iraq in 2009, in which he sustained injuries that sent him back to the states for recovery. Those injuries eventually led to Acuna being medically retired with an honorable discharge in February 2016.

The 1,562 square-foot, three-bedroom home in Leander, Texas, will provide Acuna and his family an opportunity to complete their studies and pursue their passions. “It means everything to us,” said Acuna. “We don’t have to worry about where we are going to live next, and I am proud that my girls can call this their home.”

meritageblog4Joseph Moncrief was selected to receive a 2,278 square-foot home in Goodyear, Arizona. The three-bedroom home will provide his family with access to wonderful schools, financial security, and the opportunity to begin a college fund.

“It’s a dream that we have been wanting for a long time,” said Moncrief. “Thank you for being there for us — honestly. I was floored about what Meritage Homes provides for veterans and military families.”

We can’t say enough how proud we are to work together with partners like Meritage to help military and veteran families. Together we answer the call. Together, we are stronger – and our military and veteran families are stronger.

Join in the conversation with us as we celebrate those veterans among us, by sharing stories of your own. Through Facebook or Twitter, please use the hashtag #11days11stories to share your own inspirational story of a veteran in your life.

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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.

jprayblog11-11-16At 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.

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