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Archive for May, 2020

by Linda Medler, Board of Directors, Operation Homefront Brig. Gen. (ret.), USAF

I have been in the military for most of my life. I enlisted in the Marines out of high school, transitioned to civilian life to have children, while still serving in the Marine Corps Reserve. When I was ready to return to active duty, I was accepted to Air Force Officer Training School, and served in the Air Force until I retired with the rank of Brigadier General.

Over that time, I have served with many who gave their lives in defense of our nation, including those lost while I was serving at Hill Air Force Base, where we were always deploying airmen to Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Iraq, we lost three airmen in one month to an IED attack, and a few months later, we lost another. As a leader, that is something you never get over.

When it hits that close, and you are in a leadership position, you have to look inside and say, ‘How do I help my organization and my unit go forward and recover from this — to lose four airmen on a single installation?’

To ensure that they would never be forgotten, a group of us from Hill Air Force Base entered the Air Force Installation Excellence Award Program, which comes with a cash prize to improve quality of life across the installation. We finished as one of the top award winners, and used a portion of our prize to build a Memorial Park at Hill Air Force Base in Utah as a way to memorialize the four airmen who died while serving our country.

I will never forget that Memorial Day when we dedicated the memorial. Airman and families of the fallen gathered together to grieve, to remember, to unveil the monument.

There is not a Memorial Day when I do not think back to that dedication and the Memorial Park that will forever honor the legacy of these fallen heroes of the 75th Air Base Wing.

I urge all Americans to take part in honoring those we have lost by joining the national moment of remembrance. You can participate by pausing for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. local time on Monday afternoon.

In memory of those we have lost, and in honor of those who proudly serve, please join me in standing with our nation’s military heroes.

 

 

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by John I. Pray, Jr., President & CEO, Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.)

Memorial Day is a special day for America as we honor those who have died while serving our great nation. It is especially important for me, on a very personal level, because of my father. John I. Pray, my father, joined the Army in 1938 after completing the ROTC program and graduating from Ripon College in Wisconsin. After completing many months of training, he married the love of his life, my mother, LaVerne G. Wilson in June 1940, and the Army immediately sent the newlyweds to their first posting in the Philippines, arriving in September 1940. With tensions mounting in the Pacific and war looming on the horizon, the Army returned many family members, including my mother, back to safety of the “states” in February 1941.

John I. Pray, Sr, pictured here during training in the Philippines just prior to the start of World War 2.

War broke out on December 7, 1941 and after many months of intense fighting, the U.S. forces in the Philippines surrendered on April 9, 1942. Approximately 75,000 American and Filipino troops, who were already suffering from lack of food and disease, were captured and forced to make a 65-mile march to prison camps. This infamous journey became known as the Bataan Death March – my father was among those soldiers. Thousands perished along the way and an estimated 20,000 soldiers, who survived the march, died in the prison camps from disease, malnutrition, and brutal treatment. My father survived – for three and a half years – and was ultimately repatriated in September 1945.

When I asked my father what sustained him through the many challenges he faced as a prisoner of war, he unhesitatingly told me faith…faith in his family, his country, and his comrades.

My father continued to serve his nation until he retired in 1969.

Each Memorial Day, my father would honor those he served with that did not make it home. He would remember them – their dedication and their lasting contributions to protecting our way of life. Not surprisingly, Memorial Day became and has remained a reverent occasion for our family as we look to remember the very profound contributions of many generations of service men and women and the family members who serve alongside them.

Looking back, I clearly see how my parents’ service and sacrifice inspired me to serve and guided every one of my major career decisions. I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve in a variety of capacities – as a member of the U.S. Air Force and as a member of the Bush Administration at the White House and more recently, as a member of the Operation Homefront family where I have the incredible opportunity to continue to serve those that serve.

So as we spend an extended Memorial Day weekend with our families, I would ask that you take a moment during The National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. (your local time) and remember that more than 1.3 million military members have died while serving our great nation. It is an opportunity to honor those who gave up all their tomorrows for our todays.

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Retired Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sebastian Lopez Barcelo was in crisis mode in March. As the COVID-19 pandemic caused shut-downs and stay-at-home orders, Uber drivers and freelancers like Sebastian quickly felt the impact. He began thinking of what possessions he could start selling.

“I drive Uber and I do freelance graphic design,” said Sebastian, who lives in Valrico, Florida with his wife and their two daughters. “I can’t make money because I can’t drive.

”The loss of funds compounded the financial strain that began last year when the family experienced several medical issues. One of his daughters, who is special needs, was hospitalized with a blood cancer scare. They have been paying co-pays, co-insurance and medical bills since then. Both of his teen daughters also needed to get glasses.

Then, in April, Sebastian called the VA because he was feeling sick and even had symptoms that appeared to be a stroke and the same as COVID-19. He was tested for COVID-19, given an MRI and a CAT scan. Results were negative for COVID but he did have a respiratory infection. The stroke symptoms turned out to be Bell’s Palsy. And on top of all of that, his car needed emergency repairs.

All of this stress weighed even heavier on Sebastian as funds dried up and two months passed without paying the mortgage. For Sebastian, who spent 22 years serving his country, including at least seven deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Kurdistan and Saudi Arabia, not being able to provide for his family took him to a dark place, emotionally.

He recalled Operation Homefront(OH)from a resource list he got when he retired from the Air Force in 2018. He applied to the Critical Financial Assistance (CFA) program, and thanks to OH’s generous donors, they were able to help him pay more than $3,400 in mortgage and utility payments for April and an auto payment of about $340 in May.

“What(Operation Homefront) did for me, I just don’t have words,” Sebastian said. “I don’t know how to say thanks enough. Operation Homefront and your donors took my stress level from a rollercoaster ride to total relief, at least for this month. My house is paid up and I’m not going to be charged late fees. The electricity and water are paid off, and our internet bill too, so the kids can have their school work done. I Just want to say thank you for everything. I don’t have any words for what that means to me.”

Sebastian with his wife Cindy and their rescue pup, Lola.

 

Learn more about our Critical Financial Assistance program or apply at www.operationhomefront.org/cfa

Hear the latest update from our President and CEO on our COVID19 response

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Nathan Nenninger was in sixth grade when the Sept. 11 terrorist attack occurred. The event impacted him so greatly that when he was about to graduate high school, he joined the Army National Guard.

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That was 11 years ago, and since then, Nathan has spent much of his service on active duty orders, including deployments to Afghanistan in 2016 and a recent deployment to Iraq in 2019. He just returned to his wife and three kids from the Iraq deployment and was set to begin new orders on April 1.

Those orders were put on hold because of COVID-19. Then some of the family’s financial struggles at home surfaced and he started worrying about paying his bills. He was already behind because the military had mistakenly paid him too much and they garnished part of his recent checks. He started looking at possible overseas contracts—anything to be able to pay his bills.

He received a list of resources from the Army National Guard and found Operation Homefront. He applied  to the Critical Financial Assistance (CFA) program and was relieved to receive the support. Thanks to our generous donors, Nathan was able to pay more than $3,300 in rent and utilities.

“Operation Homefront has really helped me pull myself out of that hole,” he said. “It could have spun way more out of control than it did. To the donors being able to supply the funds, I don’t have words for it. It really did make all the difference in the world for me and my family. We didn’t lose the house or have utilities shut off.”

Nathan said now he will not have to worry about whether his family is taken care of as he proceeds to St. Louis on orders to help Missouri in their fight against the novel coronavirus.

“At this point, I’ve secured these orders. Operation Homefront really was that conduit, that in between piece. I got home from Iraq and due to this worldwide pandemic, I couldn’t go straight to work. Being the sole provider with three kids, I just did not know where to turn, and Operation Homefront and your donors stepped up. They provided that buffer and made all the difference, especially for my wife and kids.”

The ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on our nation’s military families.  Over the past two months, Operation Homefront has seen a significant increase in requests for financial assistance. We are doing our best to serve those who have been there for us in our country’s time of need. It’s our turn to be there for them. The military families we seek to serve need us now, more than ever. View a message from our CEO to learn more or visit our website and give to a current need today!

If you’re a military family in need of assistance, please go to www.operationhomefront.org and click on Get Help Now.

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