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Posts Tagged ‘military and veterans support’

Our veterans have given so much of themselves to an idea greater than themselves, and many of you have honored that gift through your support of our mission.  On the last day of our “11 Days, 11 Stories” series, we would like to show you how your support has impacted thousands of military and veteran families.  This support has truly made a difference, and we are encouraged, daily, by the efforts to give back to those who give so much of themselves.

Having seen his brothers serving in the Marines, Petero Taufagu felt inspired to serve as well. Born in Pago, Pago, American Samoa, he decided to enlist in the Army in 1993. Petero spent sixteen years in the Army, deploying multipe times including three tours to Iraq. In 2007, he was medically retired and began a new chapter in the expereince of many who serve: transition.

After he left the Army, Petero, his wife and five children moved from San Diego, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada. During the move their 2004 BMW broke down and with their limited funds, they fell into financial hardship. Petero’s mother had passed, so their savings were gone, leaving the family without money for their auto repair, security deposit, rent and food.

Having only one vehicle, the Taufagu family was not only experiencing financial stress but major logistic challenges. They had to coordinate dropping all five children as school as well as being two working adults. Petero’s wife had to work around his schedule. It was then when Petero was referred to Operation Homefront by the Warriors Transition Unit.

Thanks to Operation Homefront and generous donors, Petero paid off and repaired his car, as well as getting some breathing room with housing costs and groceries for his family.

“Thank you,” said Taufagu,” We had limited funds due to the move and my mother’s passing, and you guys made it happen.”

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Petero Taufagu was the recent recipient of a new Jeep Cherokee, thanks to our partnership with American Airlines.

Transition from service is a challenging time for veterans, and especially so for veterans also coping with injuries and illnesses as a result of their service.  Many times, just one financial crisis can mean the difference between continuing towards a strong, stable and secure future and a setback that can take years to overcome.  Our Critical Financial Assistance program, as well as our transitional housing villages, stands ready to help when these families need it the most.  Our donors, sponsors, and supporters are the reason we have been able to provide over $21 million in financial aid, fulfilling more than 40,000 requests*, including:

  • Providing rent-free temporary housing to more than 500 families of wounded service members, saving them over $5-million in rent and utilities though our Transitional Housing program;
  • Matching nearly 600 military families with mortgage-free homes through our Homes on the Homefront program, providing well over $56-million in deeded value;
  • Delivering over a quarter million backpacks to military kids through our Back-to-School Brigade; 
  • Serving nearly 70,000 military families through our Holiday Meals for Military program,  a program that has  impacted over 300,000 individual family members since inception.  In 2017, we will be hosting families at 32 events in 20 states, serving thousands more.

This Veterans Day, we encourage everyone to show their gratitude for the gift of freedom given to us by the centuries of service of our nation’s veterans. Send a message of thanks or stories with #RaiseYourHand. Send us your pictures and videos that show your support for our military, our country and why you answer the call! Together, united, let’s show our American pride and show some love for those who give so much to make our country great!

If you would like to help support families like the Taufagu family, you can support one of our current needs or check out more ways to give here.

If volunteering is high on your list of ways to give back, we welcome you to see the ways to Get Involved with Operation Homefront.

* numbers through Summer 2017

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Tara and her husband, Todd.

Tara and her husband, Todd.

As we continue to honor service to country, we wanted to include a story from the families who live with a veteran hero. Today we share the words of Tara Plybon, a wife who is a caregiver for her wounded warrior husband, Todd, and a member of our Hearts of Valor program.

The wives of three men and I stood along with my son, Liam and watched the bus full of our husbands and their duffle bags departing the hotel and heading for Afghanistan. We all hugged, had tears in our eyes, and thought, “Well here goes a year of waiting.” That was February 2009.

On Oct. 15, 2009 I received a phone call that changed our lives forever. My husband, Todd, had been critically wounded with a moderate brain injury and a broken leg. The Humvee he was riding in ran over an IED.  The only thing remaining of the vehicle was the back of it and the roof, which they pulled off my husband. Sadly, his friends, SSGT Christopher Staats and Sgt. Gabriel Green, who were riding in the front seats, were both killed instantly.

The next day, I found out Todd’s injuries were worse than I could imagine. He had bleeding in the brain, his right femur was blown apart in three places, he had two torn femoral arteries, his ribs were blown apart, he lost more blood and received more fresh units than most people hold in their bodies. It was pretty scary. He wasn’t expected to make it back to Texas and they couldn’t get us on a plane fast enough to see him.

Out of the eight men on the mission that day, 5 men came back. Two did not. The eighth man, my husband, has not totally returned home, either.  His heart and mind are still back in Afghanistan. His mind is constantly thinking about that day and what could he have done differently as a gunner. When September and October come around, his nightmares increase, sleep becomes a premium more than usual. The dark cloud of survivor’s guilt lingers.

In spite of that, physically, I got my husband back. Why was I so lucky? How was I more deserving? In fact, the more I thought “Why me?” the less deserving I felt. Guilt was super heavy upon my chest. How and why did my husband survive losing all of that blood? Why did he return to me? Why him instead of Gabe and Chris? It has taken four years of counseling for me to graciously accept the gift of Todd’s life being continued. Each of the men willingly joined up to serve their countries and each of them were happy to put their lives on the line for their friends.

My heart hurts for the loss of these wonderful men. But I know that my husband and his friends went on their deployment knowing that at any moment, an RPG could come in and get one of them or they could run over an IED while in a vehicle, or any sort of combination of possible horror. What can we do now to honor them and their loss? We can celebrate our love and live the life Todd has left in the best way we can.

The day of the blast was our fifteen year wedding anniversary. I have been blessed with a man that loves me more than life itself. And he is raising a wonderful son. I have love.

Tara Plybon is an active member of our Hearts of Valor program. The program has more than 1,000 members . Through Hearts of Valor, Operation Homefront seeks to support these caregivers in their own journey of healing by facilitating an online community that provides social connections to other caregivers in similar situations, fostering support groups by geographic area to encourage resource sharing and friendships, and sponsoring annual retreats to provide education on relevant issues.

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 #11stories11days to share your own inspirational story of a veteran in your life.

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Who’s up for some fun and a chance to win some cool stuff, all while doing social good? Get onboard w/ Operation Homefront’s during the Veterans Charity Challenge! Any donation at any time during the challenge gets you a chance to win $250 GC. TODAY’s kickoff? If you donate at least $15 today, you will be entered to win a $25 Walmart gift card. We have so much up our sleeve, we almost want to spill it all (but we won’t)!  Check back periodically to see new challenges throughout the campaign!

What is the Veterans Charity Challenge? craigconnects, founded by Craig Newmark of craigslist, is celebrating its two-year anniversary by partnering with The Rahr Foundation to honor veterans and military families in the Veterans Charity Challenge. They’re giving away $100,000 and hoping to raise more money than ever thought possible for these amazing causes.

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Today I threw caution to the wind. After seeing a really cool Home Depot video, I decided to assemble my own backyard chandelier because I am a big fan of ambience and lighting fires (controlled, of course).

No fingers were harmed during production.

Three primary challenges faced me…my Kindergarten-age son, the inclusion of glass and freshly applied solar nails. In my favor were my 8-year-old daughter (some days she is more responsible than I am) and the assembly was fool-proof (no power tools, hot glue or counted cross-stitch required).

The project was simple…take a hanging planter, some glass jars, twine, a hook and votive candles…do some fancy-schmancy tying and “voila” … an intimate Parisian café in your backyard.

Right Over Left, and a bunny through a hole somewhere

Judges Score: Adorable Factor 10.0, Technical 4.5.

All starts well. However, the plot thickens when my son is unable to tie a simple knot around the jar using the twine. One would think a Kindergartener would know how to tie simple knots. But this is South Texas. Most kids can’t tie their shoes simply because common footwear is either flip flops, cowboy boots or shoes that fasten with Velcro (my son had each of these on at least once today). Asking a young child to tie his shoes here is like expecting a Hawaiian to know how to shovel snow. It’s just not a skill that is practiced frequently.

So, he quickly loses interest and instead focuses on the “clanking” sound made by banging two jars together. Intervention! I quickly suggest he go look for bugs under the deck. The diversion succeeds and my daughter and I continue the work.

I got this Mom!

All goes smoothly until I must slide one end of twine under the piece fastened around the jar. My nails have never been pretty but always functional. But this past week, I splurged for some sparkly solar nails. They look great. But they render my hands useless for fine motor activity (including writing this blog…thank God for grammar and spell check).

So when all is said and done, my daughter takes over and finishes hanging the jars. I might as well go dig for bugs with my son…maybe my bling claws would be useful for that!

It was for a good cause, big guy! #flipflopnation

Ultimately, the chandelier really turns out nice. And the best part…just for posting one of these pictures to the Home Depot Doing  Nation page, they gave a $100 donation to Operation Homefront. If you are so inclined and don’t have solar nails to impede your progress, check out the six DIY projects from Home Depot. Your backyard will benefit and so will Operation Homefront!

And, tonight, we practice tying shoes!

 FYI: Home Depot suggests a hanging planter in their video but you can get creative with this project. I actually bought one of their plant stands and just hung it upside-down. In addition, they sell beautiful, inexpensive globes you can use for lighting. We just happened to use small jars we had on hand. And you can choose real or battery-powered votives. The project in general will cost about $35 – 50 and takes about 45 minutes to complete. Good luck!

Susan Miller is Operation Homefront’s fantastic Director of Online Communications, a Mom, and now a Doing Nation veteran.

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