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Archive for the ‘Strong Stable Secure’ Category

It’s Valentine’s Day weekend and what better way for Operation Homefront to honor Cupid than with a meet-cute story that ends in a wedding six weeks later. Yup, six weeks! Army veteran Amanda Schroeder shared the story of how she and her husband Matt Schroeder, also an Army veteran, met, fell in love, and surprised their families after they eloped.

Amanda and Matt have two kids, Emmanuelle, 16, and Kenneth, 12. They married 6 weeks after they met.

Amanda served in the Army from 2000 to 2003 and Matt served from 2000 to 2005, including a deployment to Afghanistan. They were both linguists and in military intelligence. They have two kids, Emmanuelle, 16, and Kenneth, 12.

Here is how Amanda recaps their amazing story:

We have a really beautiful love story, I think.

We went on a date and six weeks to the day after the first date, we were married.

My roommate in the barracks, Melissa (aka Mel), played on our company’s softball team, and my husband, who was in our company, played on that team too. I had noticed him before but hadn’t talked to him.

The only game we lost that year was against the Marines. After  the game, there was a Marine who talked to Mel and he asked us if we wanted to go get a beer later and we said ‘yes.’ So, after the game, and our dismal loss, Mel and I are packing up to go back to the barracks and she told me I needed to bring a date. She was wanting to send a clear message. She said, ‘I don’t care who but you need to bring a date.’

She looks around like a crazy person and her eyes settle on Matt and she says, ‘take Schroeder.’ I saw him several months before on post. I thought he was smoking hot. I walked up to him and asked if he wanted to get a beer. We go out and I’m driving with Mel sitting up front and Matt is in the back. I didn’t even know his first name because everyone always called him Schroeder. Eventually he said, “You can call me Matt” and I said, “Why would I do that?” His reply was “Because that’s my first name.”

Her team may have lost the game, but she won his heart.

Her team may have lost the game, but she won his heart.

Mel tells us we need to pretend that we are dating and told us to hold hands. We get out of the car and we’re holding hands walking through a brewery but it’s in Monterrey, California, and it’s super romantic, right next to Fisherman’s Wharf.

We were sitting outside because we were smokers back then. We just connected so strongly and really bonded over discussing our love of travel and literature and things that really impacted our lives, our hopes and dreams. I went to light my cigarette and he just swoops in and kisses me.

And I was almost sad. Here was this super-hot, perfect person who was going to be gone for a year.

But I knew I would marry him. I called my mom when I got back. She asked how my day was. I told her I went on a date and that it was really good. I said you are going to meet this guy because I am going to marry him.

Apparently, the next week he had talked to his mom too and told her he had found the one.

We eloped and didn’t tell anybody. Nobody knew except our platoon sergeants and first sergeants, Mel, who set us up, and my best friend from France. When I told her about him, she bought an open-ended ticket. Because I was in the barracks, she had no place to stay so my platoon sergeant let her stay with him and his wife. She was my witness. (Amanda’s daughter is named after her best friend and will be traveling to France this summer to stay with her.)

We met on May 15, 2001 and got married on June 29, 2001. My parents were even in town, which was crazy. My mom is still mad about that!

When you know, you know.

I was 24 and he was 27. We weren’t babies by any means. Matt and I both had lived on our own since 18. I had lived abroad for two years and worked for another foreign government for a year. We both traveled. I taught English in France. He was a biochemist. We were both pretty confident that we were a good fit.

We told our parents after 9/11. When 9/11 happened, my mom was panicked. It was a terrifying, terrifying time. I told my mom and I asked her if she still wanted a wedding. On our one-year anniversary we had our big wedding and we’ve been together ever since.

We are so well-suited for each other, but very different in personality. I battled breast cancer in 2013 and my personality changed a bit, but before that I was a huge extrovert. I had my hand in every pot on base, any social event, I was very present. And Matt’s just, well, he’s quietly excellent.

Because of my injuries from service are frequently aggravated, I can’t work. However, I see it as having an amazing opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. My husband is a police officer, which is a really weird job for him because he was a research scientist. He’s really good at it. I can say I’m married to one of Portland’s finest.

And I love our love story.

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As a military spouse of 20 years, Aileen Boone knows the difficulty of connecting and making new friends with each move. Her most recent was to San Antonio, where she and her husband had been for 18 months before she heard about Operation Homefront’s Homefront Celebration program, which celebrates the service of our military spouses.

Aileen was one of more than 80 military spouses who recently attended the special night of dinner, dancing and making new friends. She met Rita Valdez, a 12-year military spouse, and the two planned on staying in touch.

Rita and Aileen struck up a friendship at Homefront Celebration San Antonio, TX. The two plan to stay in touch.

 

“It’s uplifting and it’s nice to meet people going through the same things,” Aileen said. “We’ve got a common bond.”

Rita agreed, adding that she had already texted her husband who was in training in Dallas that she was having a great time.

“Everything is totally awesome,” she said. “It gives us a moment for ourselves and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Along with door prizes and a very popular S’mores bar, guests also enjoyed speaker Brittany Boccher, a military spouse since 2005 and founder of Discovering Your Spark: Find Your Color in a Camouflage World.

Brittany gave a mini version of her workshop that was created to help military spouses find their passion and balance in life. She now does consulting and speaking engagements to help promote the needs of military spouses both inside and outside the military community.

The Feb. 7 event was made possible through the generous support of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). As part of the celebration, SNHU presented Eliana Cornejo with a four-year scholarship. Married for 10 years to Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Kevin Cornejo and mom to two children, the scholarship comes at a great time for Eliana, who plans to pursue a business administration degree that she will use for a new career and to assist at her church.

“I’m so grateful (to donors) they are opening so many doors and providing so many opportunities,” Eliana said. Hear more about Eliana’s journey as a military spouse here.

Since Operation Homefront began Homefront Celebrations in 2009, the program has served more than 8,600 military spouses.

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While the holidays can be filled with joy, friendship and family, they can also be a stressful time for military families who are on a tight budget or are separated from their loved ones.

Thanks to our generous donors, Operation Homefront’s Holiday Meals for Military program helps fill some of those gaps by providing military and veteran families with a dinner complete with all the fixings. Throughout the holiday season, Operation Homefront and their partners will have hosted nearly 60 events nationwide, serving more than 10,400 families.

Some of the events also include toy giveaways and visits from Santa.

At a recent Thanksgiving event in San Antonio, Texas, hosted by San Antonio Shoemakers, more than 400 families picked up meal kits and their turkey. Now in its fifth year, the shoe company’s HMFM event has distributed 9,500 meals across Texas since the partnership began, and this year they packed 1,600.

The Cino triplets and friend had a blast at HMFM 2019!

Military spouse Jackie Cino brought her triplets and made sure to tell her friend Stephanie Robirds, another military spouse, so she too could come along to pick up a meal. This was the third year in a row for Jackie whose husband Miles is a staff sergeant in the Army. He’s served for 11 years and is now stationed at Fort Sam Houston where he and Stephanie’s husband, Chris, a staff sergeant with seven years of service, work as instructors.

“This year we’re doing dinner for guys that don’t have their family here that will be coming to eat with us,” Jackie said.

Stephanie and Jackie thanked donors who help out, “especially this time of year,” Stephanie said, “because money is always tight.”

“This year we’re doing dinner for guys that don’t have their family here that will be coming to eat with us.”

With more than 100 volunteers from SAS Shoes who either packed up the dinner kits during the week or helped with distribution on the weekend, SAS CEO Nancy Richardson said the company’s employees want to help make a difference. San Antonio is known as “military city” and many of the employees have either served themselves or have family members who are veterans or active duty.

“To actually do something that feels meaningful to them in a positive way so that (our military) truly do feel appreciated.”

“Part of what we are trying to do here is not to make it seem like a platitude,” she said. “But, to actually do something that feels meaningful to them in a positive way so that they truly do feel appreciated.”

At the weekend distribution, three active duty airmen helped carry frozen turkeys. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Warden is in the volunteer reserves for Operation Homefront and this year brought along Air Force Master Sgt. William Laflair and Master Sgt. Nancy Horsey.

Nancy said she would like the donors to know that “a lot of military members would have a hard time at the holidays and this really makes it easier for them.”

Ashley sees volunteering for OH as a time to pay it forward from when she would get assistance.

“Especially this time of the year, there’s no better time to give back and be thankful for what we have and what we have benefited from in the past and help others who might be struggling or might experiencing a rough patch,” she said.

The San Antonio event gave Operation Homefront staff and volunteers the opportunity to meet some new people as well as catch up with some longtime friends.

Operation Homefront events often feel like reunions for our volunteers and families.

Veteran Army Spc. Charles Henry was one of those familiar faces. In 2012, Charles received a home through Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program.

“During Thanksgiving time, it’s always something we don’t have to think about because Operation Homefront is there for us,” he said.

He often tells people about Operation Homefront’s programs and the great support his family has received. He hopes donors and volunteers, like those at San Antonio Shoes who hosted the HMFM event, plus OH staff and volunteers know they are making a difference.

“My family thanks you,” Charles said. “We are very appreciative of the work they’ve done in San Antonio and throughout the United States. (Operation Homefront) is a great organization that changes veterans’ lives, as they did mine.”

For more information on Operation Homefront’s programs, including Holiday Meals for Military, visit operationhomefront.org.

See pictures from many of our Holiday Meals for Military events on our Flickr page.

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Clockwise from left to right: Isabelle Richards, Campbell Miller, Eve Glenn, Shelby Barber, Elisabeth Lundgren.

As the deadline nears to nominate outstanding military teens for Operation Homefront’s 2020 Military Child of the Year (MCOY) Awards, past winners explain why nominating someone matters.

The deadline for nominations is TONIGHT. Anyone can nominate. Click here for more information and to nominate a military dependent between the ages of 13 and 18 who has a parent serving in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or Navy.

Military children can apply here for the Military Child of the Year Innovation Award.

These five winners share how the nominations are significant for military children:

Isabelle Richards, 2018 Military Child of the Year® , Navy:

As military kids, we rarely look for acknowledgements or accolades, but Operation Homefront gives everyone the opportunity to show military kids that their work and mission matter.

This is your moment to inspire change in a military child’s life by nominating them for the prestigious Military Child of the Year Honor. You know them, you know the adversity they face, you see them thrive, so take he few minutes to #inspirechange!

Campbell Miller, 2019

Every military child has a story that is worth being told. It may be supporting their parents going overseas or moving across the country or even just being here at home for those who proudly wear the uniform. By nominating someone for MCOY, that story can be told.

No matter if they are chosen as a Military Child of the Year or not, it is an honor to share the story of a military child – a story of toughness, sacrifice, and ultimate love for our nation and those who defend it. For me, having someone tell my story was an amazing honor.

Eve Glenn, 2018 Military Child of the Year®, Air Force

Holding the identity of a military child, by itself, distinguishes an individual as unique and resilient. If you are or know of an outstanding military youth, apply to be recognized. This opportunity honors the sacrifices made by the military child, service member, and family.

Selection as a finalist provides all-inclusive access to connect with an expanding network of working professionals. Likewise, finalists are introduced to other driven young, military-brat identifying, servant leaders.

Elisabeth Lundgren, 2019 Military Child of the Year, Navy

Often times we forget how much coming from a military family affects children. The constant worry and loneliness when a parent is gone doesn’t get in the way of those children excelling in school and making a difference in their communities.

Military children are strong and resilient, but sometimes we can’t see how much this positively impacts and inspires those around us.

Shelby Barber, 2018 Military Child of the Year®, Innovation

Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year gives the child opportunity. A lot of us are hardworking kids who not only deserve the recognition but deserve the opportunity to make connections with other military kids and with a program such as Operation Homefront that helps military families through so much. The connections help us realize how important an influence just one of us can make.

Check out our previous blog where our recipients talk about the impact of receiving the Military Child of the Year® Award.

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Military Child of the Year Recipients

Clockwise from left to right: Isabelle Richards, Campbell Miller, Eve Glenn, Elisabeth Lundgren, Shelby Barber, Brandon Mammano.

As the deadline nears to nominate outstanding military teens for Operation Homefront’s 2020 Military Child of the Year (MCOY) Awards, past winners tell us what being a Military Child of the Year has meant for them. Their work and their stories are amazing! Here, six previous recipients reflect on the impact of the awards on their lives:

Isabelle Richards, 2018 Military Child of the Year, Navy

Since being Named the Navy MCOY in 2018, my ability to help inspire change in others has accelerated. I am a grassroots girl who previously helped wounded warriors in a few states. Currently, I am proud to say I serve wounded warriors , healing heroes and veterans in 45 states!

Operation Homefront’s award put what I do on an entirely different networking level. This past year I made or had delivered almost 11,000 cupcakes and cards to those service members and veterans. That is almost 11,000 service members and veterans who know they are still cared about and honored!

Thank you, Operation Homefront, for changing the trajectory of what impact I could have!

Campbell Miller, 2019 Military Child of the Year, National Guard

I am blessed and honored just to have been nominated in the past, but especially to have been chosen. The friendships that I created with the other winners while together have lasted and have been very impactful. We still encourage one another, talk to each other about significant life events, and sometimes just laugh together.

I am grateful for the opportunities that have come from receiving the award and I am excited for the recipients of 2020.

Eve Glenn, 2018 Military Child of the Year, Air Force

Selection as a MCOY finalist gave me the platform to honor my father, who at the time was a in the United States Air Force. Now, I continue to partner with Operation Homefront during the academic year and summer to promote the MCOY award and work on supplementary projects within the nonprofit.

Recognition from Operation Homefront and the MCOY empowered me to advocate for military populations in college and beyond.

Elisabeth Lundgren, 2019 Military Child of the Year, Navy

Winning MCOY was surreal. It was amazing to see how many people I could inspire just by being myself.

Winning was an amazing way to show my dad that my success didn’t suffer just because he missed out on big parts of my life. My success in swimming and in the classroom happened not in spite of my dad’s service but because of my dad’s service.

Shelby Barber, 2018 Military Child of the Year, Innovation

Winning MCOY has connected me to so many people who understand how I feel. I have a better understanding of Operation Homefront and other programs out there to help military families, which also allows me to inform other military families about these programs that can relieve so much pressure from hard situations. Winning the innovation award helped my higher education advance as I have clear goals and good starting points.

Brandon Mammano, 2019 Military Child of the Year, Innovation

I definitely have been very blessed to have won this award because it has given me the opportunity to work with Booz Allen Hamilton and see how they function as this gigantic consulting firm and how they break down all these processes to get a job done. It’s a well-oiled machine. It’s breath-taking to see that.

Having so many people create solutions and seeing the different paths they’ve thought for my project of is absolutely amazing. I’ve seen my it grow from an being an idea to become physical entities.

I’ve also made new friends for life. Each one of the MCOY recipient’s stories shows you a different aspect of military life. But we all have felt that sense of being alone sometimes, and that’s when we have to lean on each other.

To nominate the terrific military child in your life,
go to www.militarychildoftheyear.org and click Submit Here.

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What to know before you go

Buying a car is often the second biggest purchase a person can make, second only to purchasing a home. Yet, the process can often be rushed and the buyer at a disadvantage. With the holidays around the corner, and dealerships flooding the internet and airwaves with end-of-the-year sales ads, we asked caseworker Tonya Cooper for tips and tricks for buying a car.

Ask yourself some questions. Why are you buying this car? Is it a want or a need? The point is to really examine why you are making the purchase and look at how it fits into your budget. And be sure to look at how you will be using the vehicle. Is it just for one person to get back and forth to work or is it a family vehicle? Looking at what you need will help you narrow down your options.

Research, Research, Research: Knowledge is power, Tonya said. “You don’t ever want to walk into the dealership and give the dealer all of the power. You don’t want to walk in and say sell me a car. Ideally you know exactly what you want and exactly what you want to pay for it.”

She recommends the sites Edmunds.com and Truecar.com as ways to do most of your research. You need to know your budget, the market standard for the vehicles you have chosen, and your financing options. Let’s tackle those one by one.

Know your budget. To help with budgeting, financial counselors recommend that cars take up no more than 20 percent of your gross income, that is including fuel and insurance. Understanding gas prices in your area and knowing the gas mileage capability (like 21 miles per gallon) of your car is important for your budgeting purposes. Of course, this also depends on the rest of the household expenses. To help with budgeting, use the Edmunds.com affordability calculator. Overall, Edmunds.com has several calculators that can help you decide, including a “gas guzzler trade-in” calculator.

Learn market standards. If you know what the market standard is for the vehicle, then it is easier to know if the dealership is selling at a good price. Edmunds has true market standard listings. This is what the vehicle retails for, on average, at the dealer.

Financing options. Always secure financing before going to the dealership. The best places to go are your bank and possibly a credit union. They are the ones who will give the best interest rate. By having financing secure, this ensures that you will not go over your budgeted amount. It also helps you negotiate the total price of the car because you do not need the dealer’s financing. Keep in mind, just because financing is secured does not mean it has to be used.

 

Test Drive. So, you did your research, you have your financing, and now you are ready to go pick out your vehicle. Be sure to test drive. And then walk away, Tonya said. “The biggest thing I can stress here is don’t buy on the first trip to the dealer. Go home and sleep on it.”

Bring a friend or use a car-buying service. You know the car you want and now it’s time to buy. If negotiating makes you uncomfortable, bring a friend or trusted loved one to the dealership. Bounce ideas off them and ask them to help you stick to your financing and plans. Or, use a car-buying service, which takes your information and sends that to dealers who will then contact you. The prices are already lower so when you get the retail price, no need for haggling.

Beware filler! Extended warranties; windshield, dent, and tire protection, are all what Tonya calls “fillers” that are just another way for the dealer to make a profit. And if you do decide to sign on the dotted line always read the fine print first.

A tip on trade-ins. Always negotiate the trade-in value separately. A used car’s worth is easy to find by using Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds and Truecar.com. If the dealer’s offer is too low, try to sell privately, or check in with a car reseller like CarMax. Most states have information online at the department of motor vehicles sites. Ideally, the money made form a private sale will go straight to the down payment of your next purchase.

Even with the best laid plans, emergencies can happen, and help is needed. As a caseworker for Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance program, Tonya has worked with service members and veterans who have needed help paying for bills, such as car payments. To learn more about the CFA program and Operation Homefront, click here.

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