Facing an uncertain future, the Woodley family found hope and a new start at Operation Homefront Villages.

After coming home from his deployment to Iraq in 2008, U.S. Army Sergeant Eric Woodley felt fine, but as time went on, he started to notice he wasn’t the same. Eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and suddenly, his service to his country, something he held dear, was coming to an end.

Service is in Eric’s blood. He hails from a family of veterans. After the terrible events of September 11, 2001, Eric knew what he had to do. He enlisted in the United States Marines, and deployed with two Marine Expeditionary units. After his term with the Marines was up, Eric joined the Army and deployed on that fateful tour.

Now facing an uncertain future, Eric met with his first and platoon sergeants to discuss his next steps. Transition from service is difficult under the best of circumstances, but when the transition comes quickly and without much notice, the financial and emotional impacts can be devastating on a family. Concerned for Eric and his family’s immediate stability and security, the sergeants suggested he reach out to Operation Homefront and inquire about our programs that address the needs of soldiers like him. It turned out to be the best advice they could have given him.

Eric and his family moved into the Operation Homefront Village in San Antonio. While at Operation Homefront Villages, veterans live rent-free while they go through the transition process. They also undergo one-on-one financial counseling to reduce debt and build savings. Eric was able to save $26,000 to pay off his vehicle note and place enough money in savings to build a brand new home.

On more solid ground, Eric was able to go back to school at ITT Tech University to study cyber-security. He plans to transfer to St. Phillips College shortly to complete his studies. All made possible by his time at the Operation Homefront Village.

Knowing this is made possible by the generous support of concerned Americans touches Eric deeply. He wants our community to know that he is incredibly grateful. He shares, “Thank you. I know so many people out there support our troops, but it’s so different when you can see that someone actually cares enough to help us out.”

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

Room To Breathe and Recover.

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.

A Life-Changing Homecoming.

Growing up in Florida, Tarmika Dancy wanted to make a difference. She wanted to be a role model to others, especially her younger sisters and cousins. Though no one in her family had ever served in the military, Tarmika knew that service to country was something honorable, a calling that others looked up to. So, when the time came to decide what to do with her life, Tarmika joined the United States Navy.

Her time in the Navy took her places the world over. She visited African nations, Greece, Estonia and Spain. One of her tours was a humanitarian mission to Haiti. But it wasn’t adventure and being a part of the greater good that Tarmika found in military service. She credits the service for giving the structure and tools to find herself, to become a well-rounded person ready for any challenge and opportunity.


“I will forever be thankful for this opportunity that Operation Homefront and Chase gave me.”

After leaving the service, Tarmika had heard about Homes on the Homefront from someone speaking about available programs to assist veterans. Tarmika had been living with a relative and planning her next steps. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to begin the next chapter in her life, and she applied to be matched with one of our mortgage-free homes. Thanks to our partnership with Chase, we were able to match Tarmika with a home in her home state of Florida.

Because Operation Homefront is committed to ensuring successful home ownership, recipients reside in the property as a tenant of Operation Homefront for a period between one and two years. A customized transition plan is developed for each recipient, and they participate in financial counseling and other programs to help ensure long-term stability.


“I want my younger sister to look up to me and be able to know that she too can succeed in life and that there is nothing that she cannot do.”

“Operation Homefront’s assistance has changed our lives dramatically by helping my family to have a more secure future… teaching me about the importance of financial literacy,” Tarmika shares, adding, “This program changes lives and not only helps the actual veteran but their families to succeed.”

Tarmika is finishing her Master’s degree and pursuing a dual degree in Human Resource Management and Management and Leadership. She also wants to help her younger sister get through college. “Being stable and able to take care of my family is one of the biggest career motivations in life. I want my younger sister to look up to me and be able to know that she too can succeed in life and that there is nothing that she cannot do.”


“I will forever be thankful for this opportunity that Operation Homefront and Chase gave me,” said Tarmika. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”


Vets-Day_fbthumbBlogAfter helping to secure the freedoms all Americans enjoy, Operation Homefront wants to help our service members and their families realize their own American dreams. One way we achieve that is through our Homes on the Homefront program. To learn more about the program, visit www.homesonthehomefront.org

Operation Homefront is honored to be able to answer the call of our brave men and women in uniform during their service and as they transition.  We are able to make a difference in their lives because of the amazing supporters who stand beside us. If you would like to help answer the call, join us at www.operationhomefront.net/answerthecall

The Struggle Is Real

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







The Warrior Remains.

In the spirit and history of Veterans Day, we think there is no better way to honor service to country than to highlight some of the veterans we’ve been so very fortunate to help, each with their own unique and compelling story of commitment and sacrifice. We lead off the series with the story of our friend and teammate at Operation Homefront, Felicia McGrue:

Operation Homefront Village Director Felicia McGrue knows firsthand the challenges and opportunities faced by the wounded warrior families she helps every day. Just a few years ago she was a resident at the Operation Homefront Village in San Antonio herself.

In 2010, Felicia found herself facing a medical evaluation board. She truly believed she would be found fit for duty. “I was in denial,” stated Felicia.

Felicia was medically retired and began her transition to civilian life, which started at one of our Operation Homefront Villages in a rent-free apartment.

Felicia, far right, embraced her time as a resident at the Operation Homefront Village to work on a stable and secure future for herself and her young sons.

Transitioning from military to civilian life didn’t come easy. Reflecting on that time, Felicia shares, “For anyone who has served in the military, there is a grieving process you go through, whether you separated from the military voluntarily or involuntarily. We grieve over that persona we identified with; that strong, confident warrior that is ingrained in us from the beginning of our career.”

Felicia found that the confident warrior was still there, and she embraced the opportunity the Operation Homefront Village provided to work on a stable and secure future for herself and her young sons. While at the OH Village, she was able to obtain a master’s degree, significantly reduce her debt and complete a six month fellowship to assist other transitioning veterans.

Senior Director of Transitional Housing, Gracie Broll, recalls, “She put all her focus into her transition and our financial program and, before leaving the OH Village, she was able to put enough money down to buy a home. However, her heart remained at the Operation Homefront Village, and she was a frequent volunteer.” When the position of OH Village Director came open, it was as if her journey had come full circle.

felicia with check

Felicia, far right, has found another mission helping guide and support other veterans transition from service as the Operation Homefront Village Director in San Antonio.


Felicia believes staying connected and finding new ways to serve can help the emotional and mental aspects of transitioning from service. She also believes it is important that transitioned service members provide peer support and mentorship to other service men and women who will follow in their footsteps.


“Many of life stressors can be overwhelming but to compound that with physical and mental disabilities as a result of service to your country…it can sometimes prove to be unbearable. It can be difficult for veterans to navigate the VA system for medical treatment, establish permanent housing for their family, or find suitable employment to help them to sustain their household. They often still need that guidance and direction. Other, more seasoned veterans, have a difficult time letting go of that military standard and structure. They sometimes feel they have lost their sense of purpose. They can both be helpful in keeping each other motivated and provide encouragement for their family members as well.”

Thinking back to those early days, Felicia credits Operation Homefront for making a difference. “I am eternally grateful for Operation Homefront for my time at the OH Village, and I want to pass that help and assistance on to others.” Adds Gracie, “She has the passion to serve transitioning veterans and the dedication to do whatever it takes to ensure their successes.”


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

nathan-11-days-11-stories-400pixHe had planned to be a Marine for 20 years, and then retire. His wife was beside him all the way and supported his goal. And all family decisions, including financial ones, were based on being a military family for the next 20 years.

But then everything changed.

He deployed to Afghanistan, was injured, and then told that he would be discharged. As the shock set in, the couple had no idea where they would live, when VA benefits would start, or how they would pay their bills. They had no “plan B” for what they would do if 20 years ended early.

Their story is more common than one might think. And it’s the reason why Operation Homefront established our transitional housing program, and set up rent-free Operation Homefront Villages for families like this one. Operation Homefront Villages are currently operated in three locations across the country:

  • San Diego, CA – serves those primarily at Balboa Hospital and Camp Pendleton
  • Gaithersburg, MD – serves those primarily at Walter Reed Military Medical Center at NSA Bethesda
  • San Antonio, TX – serves those primarily at San Antonio Military Medical Center and Audie Murphy VA Hospital

The Operation Homefront Villages, which consist of approximately around 15 apartments within a complex, allow wounded, ill, and injured service members and their families to live rent-free while they transition from military to civilian life. The apartments are fully furnished, with utility services, internet access, cable TV, telephone service, and all of the comforts of home provided. And these families have support from other military families who are residents for the same reason. They can connect and encourage each other while they all undergo a similar transition to a new life. Our mission at Operation Homefront is to build strong, stable, and secure military families and the Operation Homefront Villages help bridge the gap at an important turning point in these families’ lives.

When a service member becomes a resident at one of our villages, Operation Homefront counselors set up a plan for the family to follow. They attend support groups, and workshops that help them review their benefits or write their resumes. Residents also receive one-on-one financial counseling to reduce debt and build savings. For many of the residents, they need time to adjust to the idea of life outside the military. They need to build up their savings and decide where they really want to live. They also need time to decide on a career path and sometimes make plans to attend school. The Operation Homefront Villages give them the freedom and space to do that.

“Operation Homefront counselors meet with each military family every 30 days to review where they are in the transition process and determine their ability to live on their own,” said Gracie Broll, senior director of transitional housing. “Once they have become self-sufficient, our counselors help them find suitable housing in the area they intend to live on a permanent basis.”

“Upon completion of the program, veterans and their families should have VA benefits in place, debt significantly reduced, and emergency savings in place,” added Broll.

This year alone, Operation Homefront Villages have provided 504 months of rent-free, fully furnished housing to 87 military families who, combined, are raising 155 military kids.

“A little over a year ago my kids and I arrived at one of the Operation Homefront Villages. The thing about Operation Homefront… I was never just a number. A name. A statistic. A random check or donation. (They) made an investment in me. In my life. In my future. On a deeply personal level,” said Nathan, a resident at our Village in Maryland.

Vets-Day_SquareIn our upcoming blog series, “11 days. 11 stories,” we’ll share with you the stories of some of our families and their journey through service, injury, recovery and transition. You will hear about how supporters like you have changed lives. The series begins Wednesday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, and features a different family every day and shows how Operation Homefront Villages improve the course of the future for these families.


If you would like more information about Operation Homefront Villages, please email our Transitional Housing Program. If you would like to help families like these, give a gift here. We are grateful to so many partners that provide resources like educational benefits, employment readiness, family and individual counseling, peer to peer support, financial management, benefits assistance and morale building.


Logistics convoyHow far are you willing to go?

“For what?” you might ask.

Not ‘for what,’ but ‘for whom.’

How far are you willing to go for your fellow Americans?

When we think about laying it all on the line, most of us would say it’s easy to do when you think about your child, or your wife, or maybe even your beloved Golden Retriever that’s slowing down with hip dysplasia from years of chasing the kids upstairs.

But what about a complete stranger? Someone you’re unlikely to ever meet? Should it matter? Ask the heroes among us, and they answer with a resounding ‘YES.’. Those are the men and woman who enlist in one of our military branches of service and promise to defend our way of life…even those who hold different values, ideologies or faith, yet are bound together by one simple word: America.

And when you ask them, “How far are you willing to go?” They say, “All the way…even to death.”

That, friends, is laying it all on the line. That is what it means to answer the call to serve in our military.

When they sign up to serve, they agree to give it all, if needed.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the young 20-year-old soldier, half a world away, who focuses on his mission, but his heart longs for home. He aches to return to the rolling plains of his home state. He can’t wait to play a pick-up game of basketball with his brother and his buddies when he gets back.

HomecomingHe is willing to put himself in a place that most Americans will never see, let alone comprehend, and possibly lose it all.

Why is he there?

The answer to that question could go on for days and would include words like honor, courage, and integrity.

But really it comes down to this – they answered the call.



He is willing to lay it all on the line because he loves his family, his friends, and his country.

And there are many like him. And today, we salute that uncommon kind of man and woman. And we remember those who paid the ultimate price.

Thank you for your service. You are not forgotten.


ATC-launch-photoWhen we think of those who serve, we, at Operation Homefront, are honored to answer the call as well when we step in to help military families get through difficult times and help build strong, stable and secure military families. With the holiday season and colder weather, nearly upon us, our requests for assistance will increase. You can answer the call too. If you’d like to honor those who are deployed and their families, the ones who are willing to lay it all on the line, consider giving a gift today.



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