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Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Vets-Day_SquareU.S. Army Specialist Justin Purifoythompson was in the 11th grade when the terrorist attacks on 9/11 occurred. He was so upset about the innocent children who lost their lives that he worked to graduate early so he could serve his country. Justin enlisted U.S. Marine Corps and then later joined the U.S. Army.

During his 13 years of service, Justin deployed six times to Iraq. He survived three roadside bombs, seven concussions, and being shot three times. But it was a hit more powerful than a bullet that eventually brought his service to an end.

Justin was living in Germany and getting ready for his seventh deployment when he started experiencing some strange health symptoms. He was shocked when he diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. The doctors don’t know how or why he got the disease, but it meant he could no longer serve in the military.

Justin moved from Germany to Texas, so he could receive proper medical care at San Antonio Military Medical Center. Around the same time, he went through a divorce which left him in a tough place financially. Others around him said he’d be a good match for rent-free housing at the Operation Homefront Village in San Antonio. He applied and was accepted.

Living at the Operation Homefront Villages gave Justin a secure place from which to start over. After only four months at the Village, he said his bank account had already started filling back up. He was able to save $14,000 and bring his family over from Germany. As time went by, he was able to build a home, find post-military employment, and most importantly, get back to being “Dad” for his children.

“The Villages helped significantly — helped my family become stronger, more stable and more secure while in transition,” said Justin.

“Operation Homefront gave me and my family a new start,” said Purifoythompson. “If we weren’t here, we’d be in a big hole.”

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Operation 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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As Military Appreciation Month comes to a close, we’d like to show you just how much of an impact your support has on our military and wounded warrior families. The simple words, “thank you,” are expressed here in moments where you have helped us make a difference.

 

may 2015 operation homefront military appreciation 1“THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT! …I would like to thank you for all your support when my family and I struggled for a way to re-unite our family for the birth of our precious little girl. I was … deployed for 12 months … but thanks to (Operation Homefront), I was able to make it back home … and witness our beautiful (daughter’s) birth day. Your kindness, service and support for all service members and their families make me record another milestone memory for me and my family to share in the future. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you for all you do.”-From a grateful emergency assistance client

 

“On behalf of my family, I cannot say thank you enough for what your organization has done my family. Your organization has been a wonderful blessing. It is hard to describe the feeling I have now that we finally have place of our own, it is a dream come true….My family and I will continue to represent the military and the Operation Homefront family in many years to come.” – recipient of a mortgage-free home through our Homes on the Homefront program

 

“I would not be where I am today without the help of Operation Homefront… Now I feel like I am in a good position to be there for my family. It helps to know that there are people out there who are there for me.” – family served by Operation Homefront

 

may 2015 operation homefront military appreciation 2“My wife is very happy. From the second we got here, it’s reduced my symptoms, and it’s a safer environment. I don’t see shadows at night as often. And when I was in the hospital, I didn’t have to worry about my wife being safe because we have Felicia (Operation Homefront transitional housing director in San Antonio).” Wounded warrior family being provided a rent-free apartment through our transitional housing program

 

“I really appreciate all your assistance… This is bringing tears to my eyes. My wife will be extremely excited about this. Again, thanks a million and one. I wish I could give you a big hug…May God Bless you and your family.”-military family served by Operation Homefront

 

may 2015 operation homefront military appreciation 3“Thank you Operation Homefront for blessing our girl with a new car seat and many other goodies!! We are incredibly thankful and appreciate all that you do for military families!!!” – new mom who attended one of our Star-Spangled baby showers

 

“I just wanted to thank you for the incredible help you and your organization provided my family. I am positive we would have suffered so much distress without the compassion and aid extended to us. I really can’t put to words just how grateful we all are… Please pass on my thanks and my wish to help out …and know that you have made a real difference in our lives and we will never forget how generous Operation Homefront has been to our family.” –family provided emergency financial assistance

 

“I really appreciate all your assistance… This is bringing tears to my eyes. My wife will be extremely excited about this. Again, thanks a million and one. I wish I could give you a big hug…May God Bless you and your family.”-military family served by Operation Homefront

 

“Thank you again. A huge stress has been lifted off of my shoulders. I cried when we got off the phone. It is so amazing to talk to caring people who want to help. You were super nice and helpful and you kept me informed throughout the entire process. What you did for me and my son means more than you know. ” –military family served by Operation Homefront

 

Thank you! Those kind words are directed to all of you, our supporters and volunteers. We couldn’t serve and honor our military families without all of you who give so much. Operation Homefront welcomes the talents and gifts from our community in a myriad of ways. You can volunteer with your local Field Office, provide support or goods for our events like Back to School Brigade and Star Spangled Baby Showers, or help a military family through a crisis by donating to our Current Needs.

 

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Strobach-operation-homefrontThere are many reasons Adam Strobach was motivated to leave his small-town home in Wisconsin and answer the call to join the Army —no jobs in his small hometown, a desire to see the world, and a feeling of gratitude to his country.

His journey began when the Army sent Adam to Fort Bragg, N.C., where he met his wife Katey—a self-professed military brat. The two married and had a son. Life was good. Like any military family, they endured time apart as Adam completed two deployments to Iraq.

During his last deployment in 2013, Adam was injured. The couple’s second son was born in January 2013, and Adam was medically discharged from the Army a month later. As Adam sought to recover from his injuries, the family learned to adjust to their new existence.

During his transition, Adam was told that the wait time for his benefits to arrive would be about 60 days. The wait time stretched from 60 days to three, four, five, and then six months. Because the family did not have enough savings and no income, they were unable to live on their own. Sadly, Adam, Katey, and their two sons had to move into the basement of Adam’s brother.

The couple gave the American Legion power of attorney to help them navigate the VA benefits process, and an Army Wounded Warrior (AW2) advocate was assigned to Adam and Katey. In the meantime, the family fell farther behind on their monthly bills.

Katey and Adam’s AW2 told them to submit an application to Operation Homefront for financial assistance. While the couple initially requested help to pay their car loans and insurance they ended up getting money to help with buying groceries, critical baby needs, and money for travel. This freed up money to help cover their other bills.

Katey states, “I could not believe how quickly the cards came. The gift cards arrived the next day after we were approved. It was super fast.” This was really helpful and came when it was really needed.”

The VA benefits have started; and while the family is still playing catchup, they hope to be on track by tax season.

Katey and Adam are optimistic about the future. Katey shared some good news: “We are able to pay our current bills and are paying on past due balances. Adam has a job offer and reference from one of his former military sergeants…which will help the family finances even more.”

vets-day_blog_thumbOperation Homefront is honored to help military families, like the Strobach family, get through unexpected tough times. Learn more about how anyone can answer the call and help Operation Homefront serve our veteran and military families at www.operationhomefront.net/answerthecall .

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sean grimes photo 3For Sean Grimes, life started in a way that was similar to most American kids. He grew up in the heartland of Bloomingdale, Ill. After high school, he got a job, and moved out into his own apartment.

Then Sept 11, 2001 happened. Sean was so deeply affected by this tragedy that he joined the Marines in November and by December, Sean was in boot camp. Sean wanted to be a Marine because he believed the Marines were “the best and the hardest of the military branches.” His family was not thrilled with his decision even though two uncles and a grandfather were former Marines. But Sean persevered.

After boot camp, Sean went to Japan for three and a half years and then returned to Camp Pendleton before getting out in 2005. In 2007, Sean was recalled to active duty and sent to Camp Lejeune. He then deployed to Iraq for almost a year. Sean was discharged in March 2008.

For almost a year, Sean tried to adjust to civilian life, but he struggled. In early 2009, he admitted himself into a nearby PTSD clinic. That same year he thought he had a heart attack. Although the symptoms were close, in reality Sean was diagnosed with pericarditis. He spent seven days in the hospital.

A few months later, Sean entered college, working full time as he attended classes and studied. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in October 2011. He began working towards his Master’s degree, but Sean was hit by something unexpected.

sean grimes photo 1Headaches began to plague Sean daily. He went to the doctor and discovered that he had a tumor on his brain and stage one cancer. A series of intricate surgeries removed forty percent of the tumor.

In his usual style, Sean continued to persevere through the disease and continued working but he couldn’t keep up. By May of 2014, Sean found himself in a financial dilemma. Although he received VA disability and worked, monthly bills plus the extra gas needed to drive to his medical appointments for cancer and PTSD treatments left him without any extra money. While he was making it, he had no room for anything to go wrong.

Because of the extra wear and tear on his vehicle, the tires on Sean’s vehicle wore out and needed to be replaced…soon. He was advised by a mechanic that the car was unsafe to drive. Sean didn’t have the money.

“Normally I would not ask for help, but I really needed some assistance,” Sean said. He decided to apply for assistance from Operation Homefront. Soon, his tires were replaced and he was able to safely drive to work, school, and medical appointments.

“Being a Marine, I don’t like to ask for help, but I am glad that there are programs like Operation Homefront out there for veterans. It is heartwarming to know that (Operation Homefront) was there for me. I am very grateful.”

Sean is back on track to completing his Master’s degree. Unfortunately, one month after Operation Homefront assisted Sean, he was laid off from his job. But in his typical style, he will not give up. Sean continues to look for a job and is receiving treatment for his PTSD and brain cancer.

He is optimistic about his future: “I have a good head on my shoulders, my fiancé has moved in with me, I am attending school, and I am looking for a job.”

We wish Sean all the best.

vets-day_blog_thumbOur supporters are the reason we are able to help veterans like Sean, who persevere through difficult circumstances. Find out more how Operation Homefront is increasing their efforts to help military families at www.operationhomefront.net/answerthecall.

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In our continuing series to Honor Veterans, today’s story highlights the tenacity and resiliency of our veterans. The Staelens family shows that it’s possible to endure life-changing trauma and put your life back together, with a little help from friends.

staelensblogveteransAfter Army Spec. Joshua Staelens returned from a year-long tour to Afghanistan, he and his family made a PCS move. It was a base where Staelens was told he would not have to deploy again soon.

Within months, however, the military police officer was back on the front lines, this time in Iraq with a combat support team.

As trying as his tour in Afghanistan was, Iraq would prove to be near deadly.

Joshua was traveling in a convoy when a roadside bomb exploded next to his vehicle. Both he and his squad leader were peppered with shrapnel. In addition, Joshua suffered a concussion, TBI and resulting PTSD.

Now, Joshua lives with constant pain in his leg from the shrapnel embedded in his flesh. Doctors are afraid to remove the metal bits for fear the surgery would do more damage.

In 2007, he was medically discharged and sent on his way with no retirement pay and limited veterans’ benefits. The Army and the VA could not agree on the disability percentage rating he should receive.

Joshua suffered from the aftermath of war by dealing with PTSD, sleep apnea and other ailments. He tried to work but many police departments would not hire him to join their force, in spite of his military police training.

The family of four was left scraping by on whatever part-time work he could find. Operation Homefront gave the family a home in our Village in Bethesda, MD where they could live rent-free while Joshua put his career and life back together.

“It was a Godsend,” Joshua said. “If we weren’t here, we probably would have been living out of our car.”

Despite the family’s dire situation, Joshua said he would not change a day of his service.

“I’m learning to cope and I’ll probably never get rid of my PTSD, but I volunteered to do this for my country and I would do it again if I was asked to,” he said.

The Staelens family relocated to Maryland. Josh started working with Radio Shack as a sales associate. Within months, Josh became the Manager. He now manages one of the largest RadioShack stores in the country. He is also responsible for other RadioShack stores, which is a job he created. The family moved to a rented house and they are doing great. Josh is working toward a promotion as District Manager.

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.

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kids at play

Steve, Rob and Bobby get some moments to goof off during promotions for Comedy Warriors.

Bobby Henline, Rob Jones, Joe Kashnow, Steve Rice and Darisse Smith share at least two things in common. They are funny…really funny… and they are wounded warriors. And now they are officially stars of a movie that follows their path to become headliners of their own stand-up comedy show.

I got to see the new documentary, called Comedy Warriors, this weekend at a local movie theater as part of the San Antonio Film Festival. The movie follows these five vets as they are mentored by some of comedy’s greatest – Zach Galifianakis, Bob Saget, Lewis Black, DJ Novak, and others. Other than Bobby, they have no experience working a room for laughs but they share the belief that humor helps them heal. I know it’s cliché but I laughed and I cried. Mostly laughed … a lot.

Joe Kashnow, who lost his leg from an IED explosion, said he used humor to handle the amputation. When doctors came for the consultation, he told them, “If you must take my leg, I have two requests. One – I want you to give me my leg back so I can give it a proper burial in keeping with my Orthodox Jewish tradition. Two – I insist that my prosthetic leg have a secret door that can hold cookies.” He said psychiatrists visited the next day to see what was wrong with him. In his stand-up routine, he jokes that his leg is buried next to a tombstone that reads, “More to come.”

But humor doesn’t automatically make life easy. Kashnow endures intense daily pain and was suicidal at one point. He asked himself “I suffer every day. What is there that is worth sticking around for?” His answer: His son … and all the moments he might miss if he left this life. And now, stand-up comedy gives him an outlet, and distraction, to deal with the pain. After his debut show in Los Angeles, Joe came off stage and said, “That was awesome. I’m still aware of the pain in my leg but for this moment, it’s not as bad.”

Follow Comedy Warriors on Facebook to show progress.

This movie is a must-see.

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Me and Bobby Henline after the screening. It wasn’t my first time to meet Bobby…and he really is hilarious, on stage and off.

The movie follows each warrior as they go through the mentoring process, to their debut on stage and after. It is full of heart-warming moments. For example, Bobby’s teenage daughter tearfully wonders why people stare at her Dad’s scars on his face, “He didn’t ask for this.” Bobby and his daughter were at the screening the day I attended and she joked that she still had more Twitter followers than he did. Help Bobby out and follow him on Twitter.

And there are moments that make you cringe. “I told my wife that if I didn’t come back from Iraq in one piece, that she should go on without me. Thankfully she and her new husband rent me space in the garage.” This piece of fiction (Thank God!) was part of Bobby’s routine, who is still happily married to his wife.

This movie helps bridge the gap between civilians and military. Between the able-bodied and the disabled body. Between those who suffer and those who will. And it does it all with laughter.

After the screening, Bobby Henline took questions from people in the nearly full theater. I asked, “How can we help you promote this movie so more people see it?” He said, “Follow Comedy Warriors on Facebook and Twitter and, if you can, donate money so we can purchase entry into more movie festivals.” The film won Audience Choice for the Best Documentary at the San Antonio Film Festival. A much-deserved award. And I wish them many eyes to see this incredible story in the future.

Bobby, who has served on the board of our Texas Field Office, said he was the only one who survived the explosion that hit the Humvee he was riding in. “I owe it to the ones who didn’t make it, to do everything I can so they didn’t die in vain. I hope to bring more joy and good from this experience” to outweigh any bad from those who tried to kill.

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Continuing To Serve Those Who Serve

Colonel J. S. Anderson, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired), Chapter President of Operation Homefront Southern California.  

From the Halls of Montezuma,
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean:
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.-USMC hymn 

As the strands of the Marines Hymn rang out over the AAA baseball game he was attending, Jay Anderson, (Col, USMC, Ret.) rose to stand  with another Marine veteran, one who had fought  in World War I.  The crowd responded to their display of pride with a standing ovation. Jay recalls experiencing that same pride, “Every day that I put on the uniform of the United States Marine Corps, particularly when serving overseas.”  His service to our country spanned 30 years with the USMC, and he continues to serve our country’s finest as Chapter President of Operation Homefront of Southern California.

Over the course of his career, seeing the initiative, creativity and ability of Marines in his commands to adapt, innovate, and improve in the face of any challenge convinces him that today’s young veterans are poised to lead our country through these troubling times and build a stronger future for our nation and our children. “Their World War II forefathers returned from war, after seeing the worst that man can do to his fellow man, and worked together to fix the problems of our nation, making it the strongest in the world.  These young vets have also experienced the horrors of war and are doing the same, in politics, business, and society in general.  They are the future leaders in every element of our society.”

“The OIF/OEF veterans are America’s next greatest generation.”

To learn more about the great work that Jay and his staff are doing for our military families and wounded warriors in the Southern California region, please visit them on the web, connect with them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.

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