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Posts Tagged ‘Military Families’

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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by Tracy Lehman, Operation Homefront

As a full-time caregiver for her wounded-warrior husband and a mom of two, Angela Walter works every day to keep her family safe.

The Colorado Springs, Colorado, woman put extra thought into emergency preparedness. “What are you going to do if whoever you’re caring for freaks out” in an emergency, she wondered.

Having an emergency plan in place can help the whole family get to safety if they need to evacuate.

Angela, who volunteers with Operation Homefront’s Hearts of Valor caregiver support program as a group facilitator in Colorado, shared tips for fire safety and emergency planning.

Sound the alarm

Did you know smoke alarms expire? The National Fire Protection Association recommends replacement every 10 years. The date of manufacture should be on the back of the alarm.

Check that smoke detectors are installed on each level of your home – including the basement – and in each bedroom or outside each sleeping area.

Plans B and C

How would you get out of your home if the main exit is blocked? Make an escape plan, and practice it with your family.

“We live in a townhouse, and we would have to jump out our window in the back,” Angela said. The drop would be about 15 feet, so the family added a ladder in the back.

Angela Walter, a Hearts of Valor facilitator, is a caregiver for her husband, retired Army Spc. Daniel Walter. Their children, Hunter and Ariana, know their roles in emergency situations.

Call for help

Establish a communication board with emergency phone numbers. Post the board in a prominent place in the home, and make sure the numbers are easy to access in everyone’s phones. Don’t forget to update when numbers change.

Give family members – even older children – responsibilities such as helping get pets or younger children to safety. List each person’s tasks, and review those regularly.  (The CDC has a great page with info and tools for preparing children)

Just in case

Store backup copies of vital documents – insurance papers and drivers licenses, for example – on a flash drive that can be stored away from your house. Send the drive to a family member or stash it in a safety deposit box.

Do you have tips on emergency preparedness? Share in the comments.

Related topics:

Top 3 tips for helping your family adjust after a move

Did you know?

Operation Homefront has a Critical Financial Assistance program? Click here to learn more.

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Military Child of the Tear 2020-SemifinalistsNinety-five military children have advanced as semifinalists in Operation Homefront’s 2020 Military Child of the Year® Award program

This year marks the 12th anniversary of this special event as the nation’s premier celebration of the achievements of America’s military children, reflecting the positive impact they’ve made on their families, schools, and communities. The Military Child of the Year® Award is a lifelong source of pride for the recipients. Participating in the program provides them with amazing opportunities to meet senior military leaders, elected officials, celebrities, and other remarkable military children.

The following are all the 2020 Military Child of the Year® Award semifinalists by service branch. Semifinalists for the 2020 Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation are also designated:

Army

Jonathan Bailon, 17, Corpus Christi, Texas

Abigail Birano, 16, Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

Jordan Daugherty, 18, Alexandria, Va. Daugherty is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation.

Lauryn Dixon, 17, Cabot, Ark.

Peyton Faulk, 17, Lansing, Kan.

Coralynn Fisher, 14, Stafford, Va.

Ashley Gorrell, 16, Fort Polk, La.

Morgan Kim, 15, Richmond Hill, Ga.

Fionnuala Mahoney, 18, Bethesda, Md.

Amara Park, 18, Fort Belvoir, Va.

Olivia Starz, 16, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Austin Theroux, 17, Cranston, R.I.

Anna Torres, 16, Fort Riley, Kan.

Anna Turlington, 16, Cecilia, Ky.

Devin Woods, 17, Bel Air, Md.

Marine Corps

Aubriannah Aittama, 14, New Bern, N.C.

Lee Balderaz Jr., 17, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Niklas Cooper, 16, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Dean Fecteau, 18, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Hunter Galvin, 17, Holly Ridge, N.C.

Clyde Harris, 17, Oceanside, Ca.

Payton Jeffers, 17, Holly Ridge, N.C.

Harmony Jones, 14, East Garrison, Calif.

Jason Morrison II, 17, Maysville, N.C.

Iain Nicol, 13, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Abigail Paquin, 17, Tarawa Terrace, N.C.

Ethan Perdew, 17, MCAS Iwakuni, Japan

Gabrielle Ryder, 17, Smithsburg, Md. Ryder is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation.

Justin Skillings, 13, Tarawa Terrace, N.C.

Michayla Wittner, 16, Jacksonville, N.C.

Navy

Michael Archie, 18, Pensacola, Fla.

Catherine Besachio, 17, Norfolk, Va.

Danielle Bilotta, 18, Albuquerque, N.M.

Chloe Cullen, 17, Petaluma, Calif. Cullen is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation

Logan DeLisle, 17, Beavercreek, Ohio

Nai’a Freeman, 17, Cathlamet, Wash.

Wester Gapasangra, 16, Honolulu, Hawaii

Sawyer Getschman, 17, RAF Molesworth, England

John Grady, 18, Chula Vista, Calif.

Jalen Hines, 17, St Johns, Fla.

Kaitlin Howard, 16, MCAS Iwakuni, Japan

Kainath Kamil, 16, Oceanside, Calif. Kamil is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation

Katherine Kennedy, 17, Crozet, Va.

Miryam Smith, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Lauryn Williams, 18, St Johns, Fla.

Air Force

Lance Almand, 16, Southlake, Texas

Kabryni Bruening, 17, Sembach, Germany

Audrey Camper, 15, Talofofo, Guam

Marina Cardoso, 15, Minot AFB, N.D.

Jessop Collins, 17, Bedford, Mass.

Brianna Cooley, 14, Bossier City, La.

Taylor Curro, 17, Carrollton, Va.

Merideth Curwen, 17, Tokyo, Japan

Samantha Grab, 18, O’Fallon, Ill.

Rachel Kent, 18, Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Jordyn McNeal, 13, Apollo Beach, Fla.

Taylor Sandlin, 17, Cedar Park, Texas

Jacob Taylor, 17, Tucson, Ariz.

Brian Thompson, 17, Bel Air, Md.

Stephen Wolf, 13, Xenia, Ohio

Coast Guard

Alexis Blyth, 18, Santa Rita, Guam

Liam Cooper, 17, Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Pierce Corson, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Jade Davis, 16, Alexandria, Va.

Callie Graziani, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Ethan Hunt, 18, Key West, Fla.

Veronica Kavanaght, 16, Orlando, Fla.

John (Jack) Kennedy, 17, Grangeville, Idaho

Kimberly Locke, 17, La Plata, Md.

Hennessy Martinez, 17, San Deigo, Calif.

Kaytlyn Meyer, 17, Owensboro, Ky.

Evelyn Nutt, 16, Ketchikan, Alaska

Tucker Pullen, 17, Bahrain

Tyler Schultz, 17, Forestdale, Mass.

Giavanna Vinciguerra, 14, Palmetto Bay, Fla.

National Guard

Logan Carter, 18, Clinton, Mo.

Bethany Chacon, 17, Albuquerque, N.M.

James Chattaway, 13, Stanton, Calif.

Olivia Chiancone, 17, Winterville, N.C.

Easton Christainsen, 16, Pleasant Grove, Utah

Maya Faulds, 16, Barnegat, N.J.

Victoria Fillipi, 18, Anthon, Iowa

Hannah Grau, 14, Virginia Beach, Va.

Anna Harris, 18, Warrior, Ala.

Audrey Hartgraves, 14, League City, Texas

Gavin Holland, 18, White House, Tenn.

Kristina Lee, 18, Galion, Ohio

Maycie Madsen, 18, Richfield, Utah

Allison Roper, 16, Morganton, N.C. Roper is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation

Noah Sherman, 17, Acworth, Ga.

Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation

Shaylee Barber, 17, Clinton, Utah, Air Force

Chloe Cullen, 17, Petaluma, Calif., Navy

Jordan Daughterty, 18, Alexandria, Va., Army

Denitsa Dimitrova, 17, Virginia Beach, Va., Army

Kainath Kamil, 16, Oceanside, Calif., Navy

Hannah Lipschutz, 17, Charleston, S.C., National Guard

Kaileen Myers, 17, Virginia Beach, Va., Navy

Clairissa Nivens, 17, Chillicothe, Mo., National Guard

Allison Roper, 16, Morganton, N.C., National Guard

Gabrielle Ryder, 17, Smithsburg, Md., Marine Corps

Thirty-five finalists will be selected in February by a panel of judges chosen by Operation Homefront’s senior leadership and Booz Allen Hamilton, a global technology and management consulting firm. The final seven award recipients will be announced in March and will travel to Washington, D.C. to be recognized at a gala on April 2, during which senior leaders from each branch of service will present the awards. They’ll also each receive $10,000, a laptop, and other donated gifts.

Six Military Child of the Year® Award recipients will represent each branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard — for their scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, extracurricular involvement, and other criteria while facing the challenges of military family life.

The seventh award is the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation presented by Booz Allen Hamilton. This award goes to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional, or global challenge. The Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation recipient will work directly with a team at the BAH firm, developing a plan to help scale the recipient’s project — drawing on technology and strategic thinking.

More information about the Military Child of the Year® Awards is available at www.militarychildoftheyear.org.

For media inquiries, please contact Mike Lahrman at communications@operationhomefront.org or call (210) 202-1243.

Inquiries regarding sponsorship of Military Child of the Year® can be sent to development@operationhomefront.org.

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Since spring, when Brandon Mammano won the 2019 Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation, the college freshman has seen his dinner-table idea develop into a global initiative that could launch in early 2020.

Mammano, a freshman mechanical engineering major at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, has worked with global technology and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton – sponsor of the award – to grow his vision for helping children of military members adapt to new schools and communities when their families are reassigned.

Brandon has worked with global technology and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to grow his vision for helping children of military members adapt to new schools and communities when their families are reassigned.

“It feels like a dream,” said Mammano, the son of Mimi and John Mammano, an Air Force colonel stationed at Hickham AFB in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. “It started as a dinner conversation with my parents, and now it’s something that can help people across the United States and globally.”

The Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation is one of seven awards presented by Operation Homefront to celebrate the achievements of military children. Nominations are open through Dec. 9, and awards will be presented April 2 in Washington, D.C.

The annual awards recognize outstanding young people ages 13 to 18 who are legal dependents of a service member or military retiree. Six Military Child of the Year recipients will represent a branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard — demonstrating resiliency, leadership, and achievement during their parents’ military service. The innovation award goes to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional, or global challenge.

The 19-year-old Mammano based his initiative on the outreach program for active-duty service members. He worked with his father’s unit to include a welcome letter to help ease the stress of students who are starting over.

Mammano understands that stress. By the time he was a senior in high school, his family had moved eight times. His longest stay in one school was three years. That, he said, was lucky.

“Even though I’ve moved around, it’s still hard finding out what there is to do (in a new community) and what clubs (a school) has,” he said. “I wanted to give kids an idea of what they have before they arrive (at their new school).”

Now, less than a year after winning the MCOY Award for Innovation, Mammano has seen his idea blossom from abstract to concrete with input from the Booz Allen Hamilton team.

“Seeing the different routes and paths they’ve thought of is absolutely amazing,” he said. The project has grown to include a website and an application that makes it easier for students to connect with peers in their new communities.

“They can start making plans with friends before they arrive,” Mammano said.

The program is set to launch in the Washington, D.C., area and Europe in early 2020. As Mammano looks forward to the roll-out, he is also relishing the experience.

“I 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 … break down all these processes to get a job done. It’s breath-taking to see that,” he said.

“This program has taught me so much that I can use in whatever endeavor I pursue in life.”

To nominate a child for the MCOY Award for Innovation or another MCOY award, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org and click the Nominations tab.

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Happy Holidays!

The holiday season can be overwhelming with the many events, parties, shopping and gifts that seem to take away from its true meaning of giving. Now that I have kids, it’s important to me and my husband that we start to teach them early what it means to give back, especially when it comes to our military community.

Below, you’ll see several ideas to help you get involved this holiday season but anything that helps is a worthy idea in my opinion. Happy giving!

Holiday Meals for Military 

This yearly program from Operation Homefront distributes ready-to-go holiday meal kits to military families and includes everything needed for a traditional holiday meal. Since 2009, the program has fed more than 90,000 military families and continues to grow each year. Get inspired with photos from past events and help by making a small donation at the Operation Homefront donation page.

Holiday Toy Drive 

I’m sure some of us feel that we can all do with less toys in our lives but for those families who struggle with the expectations of gifts during the holidays, toy drives are the perfect way to pass along the spirit. Operation Homefront’s Holiday Toy Drive is an easy way to do a little good for the next kid. The program collects toys and distributes them at a participating event on base. Learn about how you can get involved at: https://www.operationhomefront.org/holidaytoys.

Consider a Monetary Donation 

We all lead hectic lives, so sometimes it’s just easier to contribute monetarily. Operation Homefront makes it super easy with their Current Needs list, a running list of critical requests for help made by military families across the country. Your donation can help a family pay utility bills, support medical expenses or even pay rent. I love the transparency and that I can see where donations are going. Check the Current Needs page for more information.

Organize a Bake Sale 

Something about the holidays gets me in the baking mood! Instead of doing it alone, think about organizing a bake sale on your base instead. It’s a fun way to connect with other parents in your community, get the kids involved, try different recipes and enjoy delicious treats at the end! A total win-win. You may even want to check in with your local commissary to see how they can help with the cost of ingredients and supplies.

Operation Homefront and Procter and Gamble are proud to partner together to serve America’s Military families.

About Start Strong, Stay Strong: Start Strong, Stay Strong enables military families like yours to connect with your best allies—each other. We’ll help you create the stability, connections and comfort in your military community that you and your family deserve.

About Melissa Stockwell: Nothing is harder and more rewarding than being a military mom. This is something American war veteran and Paralympian Melissa Stockwell knows well. After losing her left leg in combat in 2004 as a 24-year-old first lieutenant, the lifelong athlete and patriot knew should couldn’t stop there. She turned her years of hard training and dedication to para-athletics, and in 2008 earned a spot on the U.S. Paralympic Swim team. She competed for the first time as a Paralympian in Beijing, China. This commitment and new path started a journey that eventually led her to become a three-time world champion Para-triathlete, earning the Paralympic Bronze Medal in 2016. She then went on to co-found Dare2Tri, a nonprofit organization that introduces people with disabilities to the sport of triathlon. However, has been nothing compared to the joy and reward of Melissa’s biggest accomplishment—becoming a mom. Her two kids Dallas and Millie motivate her to continue to dream big and inspire her to serve as a role model so that one day they too will learn to discover their own dreams.

Whatever type of mom you are, Melissa helps us see that all moms are on a mission, together. Visit Melissa’s Corner and join today!

Inspire!

Melissa has inspired military spouses across the country at Operation Homefront events like Homefront Celebration and Star-Spangled Babies showers

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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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Response to our 2019 Back-to-School® Brigade program was phenomenal. Read about how we are making a difference in the lives of military families, all thanks to our partners, volunteers and supporters like you:

Nearly 30 minutes before the start of Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School® Brigade (BTSB) event in San Antonio, a line of families started at the gym doors inside a local YMCA and snaked all the way out of the building.

Meanwhile, an army of volunteers, Operation Homefront employees and partners like Chobani and H-E-B made the necessary last-minute checks. The face painters were ready, the photo booth filled with props and more than 500 backpacks were stacked and ready to go.

The San Antonio event, which provided 500 backpacks, was one of nearly 100 BTSB events held across the nation throughout the summer. With the help of our corporate partners, donors and legions of volunteers, the events were estimated to provide over 40,000 kids with backpacks.

 

Volunteers from H-E-B helped make the day special for military families. Operation Homefront is proud to partner with H-E-B for BTSB as well as our Holiday Meal for Military program.

 

We were excited to host the team from Chobani at our San Antonio BTSB event. Chobani is donating $500,000 to help provide food for veterans and their families via Operation Homefront, and also matching donations—up to an additional $250,000!

Once the doors opened, the families filed through the gymnasium, gathering information on various resources from all the different booths and of course picking out a purple, pink, or clear backpack before leaving with smiling faces.

Good times!

 

 

The San Antonio event, which provided 500 backpacks, was one of nearly 100 BTSB events held across the nation throughout the summer. With the help of our corporate partners, donors and legions of volunteers, the events were estimated to provide over 40,000 kids with backpacks.

Sailor Natalie Larenas attended the event for the first time, bringing her two sons, one in fourth grade and the other a freshman in high school.

“I had no idea there would be so much stuff here,” she said. “There was a lot of things the kids could learn about, like PTSD and education resources.”

Having been in the Navy for the past 14 years, Natalie said she appreciates that there are donors who give to Operation Homefront to help military families.

“Thank you!” Natalie said. “The families who serve sacrifice a lot and when there is something like this, we feel appreciated. It’s really nice. I really appreciate this, especially with three kids. I get emotional because I have served so many years and sacrificed time, just being away from my family. That’s why this is so nice. It tells me that we are appreciated too.”

From L-R, clockwise: An OH volunteer and service member at the BTSB event in Colorado Springs, CO; OH CEO John Pray (second from left) volunteers at the BTSB event in Clarksville, TN; A soldier fills a backpack at the BTSB event at Camp Murray, Tacoma, WA; A boy gets his face painted at the BTSB event in Clarksville, TN.

Since BTSB began in 2008, more than 375,000 military children have been provided with backpacks filled with supplies, helping them have the tools they need to succeed for the school year. You can see photos from our events on our Flickr page.

Operation Homefront Program Coordinator Rebekah Reyes said the Alamo City event could not have happened without the volunteers and partners. “I want to thank all of our donors and our volunteers who came out to support”,” Rebekah said. “(At the event), we had about 150 volunteers help us from the set up to clean up. They really helped make the event run smoothly.”

Team work makes the dream work.

Cathy Toyoda was one of those volunteers. She’s been volunteering with Operation Homefront for more than two years, currently in the donations department but has helped at several BTSB events.

“You know, military families, most of them, are on a tight budget, and buying school supplies is very costly,” she said. “It’s wonderful that people donate to this (Back-to-School Brigade) event by giving all the school supplies and the back packs and it’s really wonderful to give them away to people who need them.”

Cathy Toyoda has been volunteering with Operation Homefront for more than two years. It’s wonderful that people donate to this (Back-to-School Brigade) event.”

Talia Farrell was at BTSB for the first time. She and her husband Troy, who is in the Air Force, brought their two kids, Jordan and Jayda, in kindergarten and third grade respectively. She said the kids had a great time and the family was surprised at all the goodies. She hopes to return in the future.

This was Talia’s family’s first time at BTSB. This is beyond our wildest dreams. We truly appreciate it. This is something we all benefit from and it’s very, very necessary.”

“This is a great opportunity for military families,” Talia said. “This is beyond our wildest dreams. We truly appreciate it. This is something we all benefit from and it’s very, very necessary.

Back-to-School Brigade 2019 has concluded, but we have many more opportunities for military families in the coming months. Keep an eye on our events page for when registrations open.  If you would like to get involved as a volunteer, this page has everything you need to get started,

Chobani has been an incredible supporter of Operation Homefront’s mission. Chobani is donating $500,000 to help provide food for veterans and their families. And for every dollar you donate, Chobani will match your donation—up to an additional $250,000.

Finally, a special thanks to our national sponsors, Dollar Tree and SAIC, for their ongoing support of Back-to-School Brigade and many other Operation Homefront programs.

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