Shay Mason served in the military as an Army Counterintelligence Agent and as a Russian linguist…and then she completed her active duty service in 1989.
Shay met Gary while at Howard University and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Print Journalism. They fell in love, got married and then Gary decided to join the military.
Gary enlisted in the Army for a number of reasons: a better life, travel, opportunity, future stability for his family, and to serve his country. Shay and Gary agreed that Gary would serve, hoping to make the Army a career. During his years of service, they welcomed four children into their family.
As an infantry officer, Gary was deployed three times to the Middle East. His first deployment was to Iraq in 2008. His second and third were to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. The last two missions were Special Forces and after serving for fifteen years, Gary had to retire in 2015.
He medically retired with an honorable discharge due to injuries he sustained from his last deployment. He suffered from back and ankle injuries and battles the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Shay became his full-time primary caregiver.
While Gary was transitioning out of the military, the condominium they were renting received serious water damage that made it uninhabitable. They had no place to call home and were forced to stay at a local hotel. Their financial situation became dire, causing additional stress for the family of six.
While living at a local hotel, they heard about Operation Homefront Villages and the rent-free transitional housing program in Gaithersburg, Maryland. They applied and were accepted and still currently reside there.
The Village provides them with a furnished apartment with all rent and utilities covered. In addition, families who stay at the Village get financial counseling and attend support groups with other wounded veteran families to help them make a successful transition to civilian life.
“Living at Operation Homefront’s Village is an opportunity – a tremendous blessing and stress relief,” said Gary. “We can save money, repair our credit, and restablize our children and focus on getting healthier as a family.”
So far, as a result of being at the Village, they have saved $14,000, and paid off $6,000 in debt.
The Masons are definitely on their way to a strong, stable future. Two of their kids are attending college and the two younger children are doing well in their respective schools.
“We have had a great time living there, there are other military families living at the Village and we bonded,” said Gary. “We are in communication with them and we hang out. There is a sense of community and it makes it easy for us…there is so much veteran support.”
Gary and Shay have started a family business to create media support kits. They will use these to help other military families navigate the unique challenges of military life, using their past experience to benefit others.
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