Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

Former Marine Sayku Dudley describes his childhood in Atlanta, Georgia, as rough. As a kid, Sayku was motivated to find a better life for himself.

Sayku started going to softball games and barbeques hosted by local military recruiters and became good friends with one of them.

“As things became worse in my environment,” said Sayku, “I decided to … join the military. As I was deciding which branch of service to go into, I thought the Marines looked the toughest and the fittest. I went into the Marines because I wanted to look like that guy who stood out from the rest.”

dudleyAfter basic training at Paris Island, South Carolina, Sayku was stationed at Twenty-nine Palms, the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command in California.  He spent time in Japan and Mexico before returning to Atlanta to join the Marine Reserves.

After 9/11, Sayku deployed to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.  “I was almost killed,” said Sayku. “But I recovered.” Eventually he came back to Georgia. “My career was cut short at the end,” said Sayku. “I am fighting for medical retirement. I have had multiple personal problems. I have lost stripes. Since 2009, I have been going through the storm of my life.”

Sayku struggles with depression and post-traumatic stress. His financial situation was bleak and he faced having his lights and utilities shut off. He first turned to Wounded Warrior Project for help, and in turn, they referred him to Operation Homefront.  Operation Homefront was able to provide   the financial assistance he needed during a difficult financial time.

Sakyu request was just one of over 1,700 military families we’ve helped so far this year, and one of 11,000 since our inception in 2012.  89.4% of our 2016 clients surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that OH’s Emergency Assistance Program helps build strong, stable, and secure military families.

Sayku is thankful that things are better now than they were last year. “I was in a mental state that I didn’t know I was in or how to get out. After I left the military, I had problems and haven’t been able to do. This is not where I ever thought I would be.”

To those who donate to OH, Sayku said, “There are not a lot of words. I would rather do than say. I am so very thankful. I am glad that you (OH) was able to help me. Asking for help really checks your pride. I am very thankful for the help, and I am on a new path and thanks to you I can do for now. I definitely know what it’s like to not have. It’s very humbling to be where I am.”

Sayku recently began work at Home Depot part-time. “I haven’t been in the work world for a while,” said Sayku. “This is a new start. I have been on a rocky road filled with debts and family problems. But now I am in a different place and keep remembering how far I came. I am starting over new. This time I am going to succeed either by working multiple jobs or going back to school.”

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.

Read Full Post »

“I took a leap of faith and joined the Air Force.”

That’s how Dominick Griego describes his decision to serve. He had entered college, trying to balance the demands of a young family, college and a job. But he needed healthcare and a constant paycheck. So he enlisted.

Little did he know that decision would impact his family in ways he never imagined.

“The beauty of joining the Air Force was that I was also afforded the opportunity to see the world.” After training at two locations in Texas, he was stationed in Italy with his wife, Cecilia. “Italy was amazing,” said Dominick. “Both of my girls were born there.”

After Italy, the family was stationed in New Jersey for seven years. Dominick had seven deployments during his thirteen years of service. “I was gone a lot,” said Dominick. “It was a trying factor on my family, especially the girls. But we faced every opportunity and challenge thanks to my wonderful wife.”

dom-griego-9During Dominick’s last deployment to Afghanistan, he was hurt. At first, there was just the close call…Dominick was checking on an infrastructure in an area known as “Rocket City” when an IDF mortar blew up outside the chow hall. But three weeks later in Kabul, Dominick and his operations team were driving to another location when a suicide bomber drove into them. Dominick and his team ended up five feet away from 500-pound bomb.

“We ended up inside an attack and were under heavy fire,” said Dominick. “I passed out and when I came to, we were engaged by an enemy in the city. Fortunately, we were able to fight back and maneuver tactically. There were six of us and all six survived and returned home with minimal injuries. Sometimes you get lucky. I was stubborn and didn’t seek medical treatment. I stumbled around in country before ending up in hospital. They told me to make sure I rested my brain.”

Dominick decided to stay on in Afghanistan for six months. He was assigned to a task force looking for corruption and fraud. Six months turned into 13 months. Finally, in July 2014, he returned to the states. Dominick received a Purple Heart for his bravery and courage in the attacks in Kabul.

Despite his injuries, and the fact that Dominick had recently been diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery, Dominick reenlisted in the Air Force for another term in January 2016. He deals with traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, and PTSD sleep deprivation.

Dominick was a Portraits in Courage honoree and attended an awards ceremony at the Pentagon. While he was there, he met one of our Operation Homefront staff members. Dominick’s wife took a business card.

When the Griego family’s heat and AC unit stopped working efficiently, the family recalled their chance meeting with Operation Homefront and filled out an application for assistance—Dominick didn’t believe the family would qualify. “I didn’t think that I was a candidate for help because you can’t see my injuries,” said Dominick. “Sometimes I am also in denial about my injuries.”

“The original heating unit was oil and the new unit is natural gas,” said Cecilia. “We all have allergies which was sometimes aggravated by the oil heat and it dried us out. This is different heat. We no longer have stress from worrying about fixing it. There is no way we could have done this without Operation Homefront’s help.”

dom-griego-2“I am at home a lot,” said Dominick. “What you guys did was amazing. Because of my health, I had no motivation to mentally or physically address the AC issue. The lack of efficient heat and AC made the situation more miserable as I was recovering from surgeries and chemo.”

“A lot of people tell me thank you for your service,” said Dominick. “Because my wounds are not visible, people don’t understand. But to say thank you and then do something like your donors do to say thanks—to blindly give. That gesture is beyond words. What you and your donors do justifies and reinstates the reason why I serve and wear the uniform and would do anything to protect.”

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 to share your own inspirational story of a veteran in your life

Read Full Post »

KuschBlogImgArmy Sergeant Raymond Kusch has deployed to war zones in both Iraq and Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan on an ambush patrol of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) factory, he knew he would need to move carefully. He didn’t know that danger was imminent.

Raymond began to move across a wall, inching closer to the target with each step. But when he placed his foot on the other side he stepped on a pressure plate IED. The explosion blew him 15 feet from the spot. Raymond was awake and alive, but his foot was gone. Shrapnel peppered his entire body. The sound of the blast punctured his ear drum. He suffered nerve damage in his right hand as well as a Traumatic Brain Injury.

Doctors operated several times, taking more of his leg with each surgery. In the months after he was injured, Raymond and his wife, Alyssa, experienced heartache after heartache. Raymond battled PTSD, the couple was homeless for over a month, and Alyssa suffered a miscarriage when the stress of their situation became too much.

Operation Homefront gave the Kusch family a safe haven. The family was put into one of our Operation Homefront Villages in Maryland and provided a rent-free apartment while they transitioned to civilian life.

Not only did living at the OH Village give the Kusch family a roof over their head, but it also offered access to a debt counselor to help them plan for the future. Raymond and Alyssa began to save money and pay down their debt, putting them in a better position for life after the military. They were able to save thousands of dollars, pay off several credit cards, and only have one car payment.

Raymond and his wife have since completed our program at the OH Village and moved back to their home state of Michigan.

“I really appreciate what you all did for me,” said Raymond. “A lot of stress was lifted from me.”

Raymond is now co-owner of a gaming business. His wife, Alyssa, went back to school to be a medical x-ray technician. Their story is one of many examples of the difference we are able to make in the lives of so many families, thanks to all of our generous donors and corporate partners.

We’d like to thank ESPN who recently gave $100,000 to help families who stay at our Operation Homefront Villages. If you’d like to make a difference for our military and veteran families through Operation Homefront, find out how you can answer the call.

Read Full Post »

Vaugh1As a teenager, Phillip Vaughn watched the twin towers fall in New York City and felt compelled to answer a call to serve his country. But at the time, he was still too young to join the service. Shortly after his 18th birthday in 2003, Phillip did answer that call of two years prior, and he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Ten years passed. During his years in the military, Phillip deployed twice — once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. During his last deployment to Afghanistan in 2013, his forward operating base experienced a rocket attack. Phillip sustained several injuries and was medevaced to Germany. Shortly after, he was sent to Walter Reed Military Medical Center at NSA Bethesda in Maryland.

While in the Warrior Transition Unit at Walter Reed, Phillip learned about Operation Homefront and the rent-free Operation Homefront Village apartments available for transitioning service members and their families. At the time, he and his family were staying in an apartment off base. They were struggling to make ends meet. The apartment was expensive and put a financial burden on the family. He decided to find out more and applied to stay at the Operation Homefront Village in Gaithersburg, Maryland and was accepted.

From there, relief set in and Phillip was able to make progress on the road to recovery. Living at the Operation Homefront Village allowed Phillip and his family to better handle all of the changes, stress and pressure associated with transitioning to civilian life. As part of the support offered at the Operation Homefront Villages, the family was offered free financial counseling. Phillip used what he learned, and paid off more than $9000 in debt, putting his family in a better position for life after the military.

Vaugh2Phillip is currently attending aeronautics school to get a degree in aviation and maintenance management. Financially, they achieved their goal of lowering their debt, which greatly reduced financial stress on the family. Phillip has recently accepted an intern position and hopes to continue his education.

“We are appreciative of the opportunity Operation Homefront gave us,” said Phillip. “This program has relieved so much pressure for us.”

Vets-Day_fbthumbBlogTo get relief during a crisis, a place to recover if you needed and recognition for a life of sacrifice.  That’s what we do at Operation Homefront… and with your support, it’s making a difference.

Read Full Post »

In his own words, guest blogger, Nathan Snell, veteran, U.S. Army shares his journey to war and back again, and how he finally found his place after feeling lost for so long:

The struggle is real. This is something we hear and read often in today’s culture. On Facebook. Or Twitter. Usually preceded by a hash tag (which kids don’t know is really just the pound sign). I don’t think most kids even know what it means to actually struggle. Still… doesn’t stop them from using it. The struggle is real. SMH (that means shake my head).

Doesn’t matter what rank, branch, occupational specialty. Or which combat theater. Regardless of the type of wound, extent of injury, or nature of illness… the one constant is that NO combat veteran will ever be the same. If, and when, we get home, we learn very quickly; the struggle is real.

I had completed my initial enlistment contract. I served in the Army honorably as an M1A1 Armor Crewman. A tank driver. And YES… I fit inside the tank. I know some of you were thinking it. Anyway…I was OUT. Had a DD214 in my hand for almost 6 weeks, when one day I got a certified letter in the mail.

Congratulations! You’ve been recalled to Active Duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom…for a period of not less than 500 days and change. You have 72 hours to round up your gear and report to your new unit. Crap. THAT just happened. Sadly, I was one of thousands of troops who went off to war that way. For us… the struggle is real.

nathan snell 2

“One of toughest things for a soldier to do is realize they need help. THE toughest is probably asking for it.”

I was a Soldier. Proud. Loyal. Patriotic. I kissed my young son, my spouse, and the baby still in her belly. Not literally but you know what I mean. And I said goodbye. I shipped out to the Diyala River Valley. Next stop; Baqubah, Iraq.

What they don’t prepare you for is how time completely stands still when you’re on deployment. It’s hard to explain exactly what I mean and you can’t really understand unless you’ve been down range before. The harsh reality, however, is that back home the clock NEVER stops ticking. Life goes on.

And for me that meant coming home 18 months later to an empty house, empty bank account, kids abandoned by their mother and living with my family, and the lasting effects that combat can have on a person. I assure you there is no Training Manual for being a full-time single father with sole custody while dealing with PTSD. I looked. Sadly, I was one of thousands of troops who came BACK from war that way. For us… the struggle is real.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I was lost. Very quickly I couldn’t find my place in the world. No idea where I fit in anymore. My kids were the ONLY reason I got out of bed most days. One of toughest things for a soldier to do is realize they need help. THE toughest is probably asking for it. We’re programmed to be strong. To suck it up. To drive on. Anything less is considered weakness. But when you’re raising 2 kids on your own, pride is a luxury you often can’t afford. Luckily for the 3 of us, I swallowed mine.

I reached out to Operation Homefront (OH) and asked for help. At the time, we were just days away from being homeless. From going hungry. From living out of a car with 2 children. I had hit rock bottom. For me… the struggle had become VERY real.

It starts with the case worker. It would’ve been easy to just say thank you for your service, we’re gonna cut you a check this month. Buy you some time. Keep the lights on and roof over your head for a little longer. And honestly I would have been both humbled and eternally grateful.

But she cared. Genuinely cared. About me. About us. Stopped and asked WHY? What’s happening in your life that’s got you to this point? More importantly, how can OH prevent this from happening again. Next month. 6 months down the road. Ever again.

A little over a year ago, my kids and I arrived at 1 of 3 OH Villages. This one in Gaithersburg, MD not far from Walter Reed. The thing about OH… I was never just a number. A name. A statistic. A random check or donation. OH made an investment in me. In my life. In my future. On a deeply personal level.

nathan snell 1

“(Operation Homefront) made an investment in me. In my life. In my future.”

Knowing that I had their support every step over that last year. Having someone sit me down and say “we believe in you, you got this, we’re PROUD of you…” THAT made all the difference. The changes that have taken place in us these 12 months. The transformation. The growth. The HEALING. I’m at a loss for words.

I’ve taken advantage of every opportunity Operation Homefront has provided. I’m not the same person I was a year ago. I’m no longer lost. Without purpose. I have found my calling once again. I set out on a path. Over the last year I’ve served the county and my community as a firefighter. I worked tirelessly to complete the Fire Academy at the University of Maryland. To become a nationally registered EMT. None of which would have been possible without the support from Operation Homefront.

I’m proud to announce that I was offered a Federal Firefighter position with the Department of Defense. I have been given a second chance in life. Something that is very rare. I want all of you to know what a profound impact you can have on a soldier’s life. Nevermind the struggle… the difference you can make… THAT is real. 

 

Vets-Day_fbthumbBlogOperation Homefront is honored to be able to answer the call of our brave men and women in uniform when they need it the most. We are able to do so because of the amazing supporters who stand beside us. If you would like to help answer the call, join us at operationhomefront.net/answerthecall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Zachary Parsons, 2015 National Guard Military Child of the Year.

Zachary Parsons, 2015 National Guard Military Child of the Year.

We continue our series on our 2015 Military Child of the Year recipients with getting to know Zachary Parsons, Military Child of the Year, National Guard.

A common theme among the stories of the military child experience is one of children stepping up in ways big and small when mom or dad (or both) answer the call to service. Zachary Parsons can definitely relate.

The Parsons have strong military ties. Besides his father, Zachary’s sister and brother also serve. When it came time for his father to deploy to Afghanistan, Zachary knew that he would be needed to help run the family farm, alongside his mother. But what he couldn’t know was that his father would be injured during that deployment, prolonging the family reunion and meaning that he would assume even more responsibility while worrying about his father and what the future would hold.

It has been a tough two years for Zachary. He shares, “When the main figure leaves your household there is a spiral of things to deal with. My dad was head of household, so when he left there were so many things left to do on the farm, as well as keep our life together. Dealing with that empty space is tough.”

Those responsibilities alone would be enough for many, but they have not stopped Zachary. Imbued with a strong sense of the call to service, and the cost exacted, Zachary gives back to his community in so many astonishing ways. He uses his personal experiences with deployments and the impact they have on military children to advocate as a member of Missouri National Guard Teen Advisory Council. As a child of farmers, he is active in 4-H at the state and national level, serving as a delegate to Congress from Missouri. He wants other military children to know that there is someone who understands exactly what they are going through, and that they, too, can have a voice. It is no surprise that Zachary was named Whiteman Air Force Base Youth of the Year and Missouri Military Youth of the Year.

Zachary has felt the impact of his father's deployment and injuries, but knows one day soon they will be back together for good.

Zachary has felt the impact of his father’s deployment and injuries, but knows one day soon they will be back together for good.

An accomplished debater, Zachary has maintained a 3.85 GPA while also trying new things, such as joining his school’s tennis team. Though his dad is able to come home on weekends, the family, and Zachary in particular, look forward to the day when they can be reunited for good.

Zachary is the youngest son of Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason and Debbie Parsons. His father is currently at the Wounded Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Leonard Wood.

Catch up with our Military Child of the Year spotlight series:

“An unwavering role model in the face of adversity”-Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S.C.G., Caleb Parsons.

“Her humility, kindness, and candor inspire everyone she meets” –Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S.A.F., Sarah Hesterman.

“The focus and discipline to stay the course.”-Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S.N., Emily Kliewer.

“A Great Deal of Heart” -Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S.M.C., Christopher-Raul Rodriguez.

 “Service changes lives” – Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S. Army, Cavan McIntyre-Brewer.

Learn more about Military Child of the Year, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for information on how you can join us for the livestream of the Military Child of the Year Award gala in D.C. on April 16, 2015.

Read Full Post »

(Reflections from Operation Homefront staff members who saw the movie this weekend.)

Art. It can inspire. Or disturb. It is meant to generate strong feelings in the viewer. And the movie American Sniper has definitely generated plenty of those.

american_sniper_ver2The movie, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, America’s most well-known sniper, is still seeing record attendance at the box office since it opened two weekends ago.

Some have wept. Some have been stunned into silence. Others have cheered and felt inspired. And still others were angered, disgusted. Some pundits in the public eye have taken shots to discredit the man, the movie and by extension the military. That is difficult to stomach, if you carry a strong pride for the military, like many of us do.

THE DISCONNECT

One thing is clear from the numerous voices chiming in on the movie: there is still a difference in processing what has occurred through 13 years of war. One line in the movie aptly illustrates the disconnect between most Americans and the war “over there.”

In one scene, Kyle has come back from his first tour and he and his wife have just left the doctor’s office for her pregnancy check-up. Kyle says, “There are people dying over there and I look around and it’s like it’s not even happening. It’s barely on the news, no one talks about it. They’re all on their cell phones. No one cares. And if I stay too long, I’ll forget about it too…We’re at war and I’m headed to the mall.”

THE SACRIFICE

Before his death in 2013, Kyle found out the movie was going to be made. He said, “I hope…that the movie will give people a small understanding of the massive sacrifice these guys make in going to war. It’s hard to comprehend the journey and hardship these servicemen and their families go through…If this movie can offer a small window into that world, I’ll be very happy.*”

Unless you’ve lived the military life, you can’t comprehend the sacrifice of service members and their families. Months apart. Sleepless nights. Wondering if this good-bye will be the last. Knowing too many for whom it was. And then, once home, battling the wounds and scars that continue inside the mind.

This movie conveys that sacrifice in a way most Americans can understand. That’s critical for our service members who continue to deploy, if even on a smaller scale, and for those who bear the seen and unseen wounds of making that sacrifice. 

THE WAIT

In the movie, Kyle, like many service members, is torn between his family needing him at home and the desire to watch over Marines as they patrol and clear the streets of Fallujah and Ramadi. Kyle felt a strong urge to protect his country and by extension, his family, though they struggled as a result.

“God, country, family – isn’t that what you guys always say? Let me know when that order changes.” Kyle’s wife Taya was forced to manage on the homefront without her husband and, at times, detested taking a back seat to the military. The sense of duty service members feel stirs up both pride and frustration in the ones who wait for their return. The loneliness can be excruciating and there is no easy solution.

THE AFTERMATH

Bobby Henline, wounded warrior, friend of Operation Homefront and star of the film Comedy Warriors had this comment about the movie, “…how real the home life with his family was and how real it was for him to deal with his PTSD triggers, that’s what really hit home with me… It reminded me that I haven’t come home yet. Don’t know if I totally ever will. It’s harder for me when I’m around my family then when I’m alone or with military friends…I left my family three more times after I was wounded to go overseas to the troops. It was easy and it’s sad that it’s easy to do that.”

Hundreds of thousands of military families feel the effects of war:  Post-Traumatic Stress; Traumatic Brain Injury; bodily injuries and death; and financial and emotional struggles. That’s where Operation Homefront is able to help with programs for caregivers, free transitional housing, and emergency financial assistance.

THE REALITY OF A DANGEROUS WORLD

The shootings in France, the periodic beheadings, the ongoing threats are all reminders that evil is always brewing just below the surface. And we need brave men and women who are willing to lay down their lives to combat the dark forces that plague our world. Our way of life, the freedoms we enjoy, have been earned through sacrifice that few will experience for themselves. And that’s ok.

And for the ones who choose to serve, we should always stand and applaud them. By coming out in record numbers, Americans are bearing witness. They are connecting. And we hope they continue.

The story is about Chris Kyle, but we all should be able to agree on one thing. This movie is rekindling a pride in our service members, a small understanding of the sacrifices our military makes and the reminder that they need our support beyond packing the theater and posting Internet missives.

Rest in peace, Chris. Thank you.

*Quote from the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, by C

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: