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Posts Tagged ‘Answer The Call’

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.

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SambouBlogImageJoining the military is a serious commitment. Knowing what it means to serve and being willing to accept what that entails is something that requires serious consideration. Adama Sambou thought long and hard about his decision to join the Army Reserves. He wanted to give back to his adopted country, but his friends were concerned and not the most supportive of the idea. In his heart though, Adama knew it was the right decision.

During his time in the Reserves, Adama spent time in South Carolina, Texas, and Nebraska. He became a combat medic and was the non-commissioned officer in charge of a clinic when he was injured and returned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for treatment for his injuries.

When he was first assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Sam Houston, Adama heard about the Operation Homefront Villages program from his platoon leader. He immediately went to the OH Village to make inquiries about the program. At that time, Adama was not eligible to be a OH Village resident as he had not started the medical evaluation board process. But when that day arrived, he reapplied and was accepted. “That day, I was happy and smiling despite my pain,” said Adama.

While living at the Operation Homefront Village in San Antonio, Adama was able to save money and look towards the future. He used his VA loan to purchase a home for his wife, LaLa and their three children, and the money he saved he used to purchase furniture and appliances. His future plans include returning to school to study information technology security at Texas A & M University in San Antonio. LaLa has successfully gained employment with the city after receiving her bachelor’s degree in public health.

“I am grateful to Operation Homefront and that there are people out there with good hearts to help service members,” said Adama. “You guys fill a gap and have stepped up to the plate when it comes to helping the military. You have saved a lot of families.”

Vets-Day_fbthumbBlogIf you’d like to make a difference for our military and veteran families through Operation Homefront, find out how you can answer the call.

 

 

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At age 23, a young Californian named Jose Louis Ruiz decided he needed a new direction to make a difference in this world! So “Louie” joined the Marines. And it changed his life.

Louie served as a field artillery cannoneer. After honorably serving for 11 years, Louie was medically retired in 2015. The physical impact of service and repeated tours in a combat zone had finally taken its toll on his health.

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For Louie and his family, their lives were about to change.

At the time he was retired, Louie and his family were stationed in Japan. Because of the rapid nature of his transition from service, Louie, his wife and their two children were facing a return to the states without a secure place to call home. That was when they heard about Operation Homefront Villages, which provide rent-free transitional housing for wounded warrior families.

Louie applied to the program, and he and his family were accepted into the program into the Operation Homefront Village in California. During their time at the OH Village, they were able to save money and get their lives financially on track. “The Operation Homefront Village helped my family become strong, stable and secure to prepare for life after transition.”

What they didn’t know at the time was that something even greater was around the corner.

After hearing about our Homes on the Homefront program that provides mortgage-free homes to veteran families, Louie submitted an application.

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Louie and his wife were overcome with emotion when they were awarded a mortgage-free home through Homes on the Homefront. “We have a place to call home.”

As they waited for news, the family was invited by Operation Homefront to attend the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Military Appreciation Day. A fun afternoon for the family would turn out to be much more.

First, Louie and his wife were brought on stage to be honored for service.

Chase Auto Finance CEO Thasunda Duckett and Operation Homefront Chief Development Officer Margi Kirst said a few words of appreciation and then told them they had been chosen to receive a mortgage-free home in Murrieta, California!

The couple were overcome with emotion and disbelief. “So much stress will be lifted off of my shoulders because of (this),” said Louie. “We have a place to call home.”

Louie’s future plans are to settle into the new home, become financially stable, and go back to school to receive a bachelor’s degree.

“We are fortunate that we won’t have to be moving from place to place anymore,” said Louie. “Thanks to Operation Homefront and Chase, we have a home.”

Vets-Day_fbthumbBlogOperation Homefront is closing in on awarding our 500th home through our Homes on the Homefront program. This would not be possible with the support of partners like Chase and our incredible community of donors. Learn more about our Homes the Homefront program at www.homesonthehomefront.org. To help address the housing concerns of our nation’s military and wounded warriors, consider supporting one of our Current Needs.

 

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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

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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.

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“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.

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“(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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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

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