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hector-perez-alternate-picHector Perez is a California native – growing up just a few miles from Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles. Like many young men and women, Hector was compelled to serve after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

With the influence of a high school recruiter, he enlisted in the Marines in 2002.

During his service, Hector deployed to the middle east many times. While in Afganistan, Perez recalls how a road side bomb detonated and hit his vehicle.

Hector was injured severely. “Spinal cord injuries, neural damage to my left leg and left eye, and some TBI and PTSD as well,” were all side effects of his accident. He received a Purple Heart and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for all his years of active duty service and, more specifically, for his outstanding service during his four deployments to Iraq and two deployments to Afghanistan.

No one is prepared for the effects of war, and, like too many of his comrades, these injuries caused Perez to medically retire in 2015.

Soon he was back in California but, this time, things were a little different.

Like many in his situation, Hector was caught off guard and struggled to make ends meet during his transition out of the military. “I had to realize wasn’t going to be able to spend 20 years, a full career, in the Marine Corps,” he said.

Hector heard about the Operation Homefront Villages, that provide rent-free transitional housing, from his recovery care coordinator and applied. He was accepted into the program and moved into the new Operation Homefront Village in San Diego. There, he found relief and a way to get back on track with his life.

“We were able to focus on stabilizing our income,” added Hector. “In addition, we brought our current debt down to a minimum and live in a safe environment with others in the same position and continue care for disabilities.”

While at Village, Hector and his family were able to reduce their total debt by more than $5,000. His wife graduated from college and they were able to establish stability. In addition, the family has been able to put over $15,000 into their savings and on average are able to contribute an additional $2,000 into their savings each month.

“It’s safe, it’s beautiful, it’s near all the VA (offices) I need,” said Hector. “Being a part of this community will help our family transition from active duty to retired tremendously.”

We’re glad he’s safe and back home where he belongs.

Meet the Perez family

 

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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NEW YORK, New York (Sept. 11)--Smoke rises in lower Manhattan after the World Trade Centers fall Sept. 11, 2001. USCG photo by PA2 Tom Sperduto

NEW YORK, New York (Sept. 11)–Smoke rises in lower Manhattan after the World Trade Centers fall Sept. 11, 2001. USCG photo by PA2 Tom Sperduto

When we reflect on the events of September 11, 2001, the horror and pain of that day is often mingled with the hope and comfort of the many images and stories of heroism. Our generation had never seen such outpouring of concern and support from Americans, coast to coast.  From those who opened their homes to the stranded, to those who passed out water bottles to first responders near the scenes of tragedy, we were buoyed in our darkest hours by the values and spirit that has defined this country since its founding.

Today, 15 years later, as we pause to reflect this Sunday on Patriot Day, many of us may wonder, “Where has that spirit gone?”  You may hear others wonder aloud whether the America reflected in those days of fellowship and unity is gone, never to be recovered.

But there is one group that still believes.

Our men and women in uniform. And they have arguably carried the biggest burden and paid a heavy cost since that fall of 2001.

We have talked with men and women who joined specifically because of the attacks of September 11.  Some were mere children at the time, but they carried that calling with them until they were old enough to volunteer.  Still others talk about an opportunity given to them, or to their immigrant parents, and of a need to give back.  In the 15 years that Operation Homefront has worked with military and wounded warrior families, we have been amazed time and again at the love and reverence that generations of Americans have for this country.

And when reflecting on their service, the vast majority talk about bonds tighter than family, in some cases, and the privilege of serving with the finest men and women that America has to offer.

It is in these conversations that we see the core values of who we are as a nation, and the resiliency and strength that allows us to weather the darker times.

The men and women of our armed forces come from our communities.  The honor, courage, commitment and call to service comes from the communities they were raised in.  In short, they are America.

And they are not alone.

Support for military families comes from all walks of life. We see it at the events we host around the country. We often partner with other organizations serving other needs in their community, such as mental health and food insecurity. We see the young and the old all doing something to make their little part of the world a better place.

Americans answered the call then, and they continue to answer the call today.

Many say there seems to be a lot of anger in the air these days, whether it’s  talk shows, the web, or social media.  They wonder how to make it better. But we ask you to take a moment and really look around and see that your fellow Americans are still phenomenally friendly, caring, generous, and quick to help when help is needed. Sometimes the opportunity to keep the spirit alive comes to you, other times you need to seek it out.  But it is there.

This September 11 anniversary, we encourage everyone to find a way to keep the spirit alive in their community. It does not always have to be a donation of money or goods, it can be your time, an ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on. A smile to a stranger or stopping to take a moment to talk to someone.

doing so, we can, as in the words of President Bush in his address to the nation, “None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.”

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Our country’s service members, veterans, and their families have all Answered The Call to serve our nation, sacrificing much in the process. Service comes with many challenges – being apart as a reslt of deployment, the loss of a family member, adjusting to a new community and career, hitting a financial obstacle. Putting the needs of our country before their own, our military personnel and their families have always been committed to protecting us all.

If you are looking for a way to get involved in supporting our military families, we invite you to join our Answer The Call campaign.

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In the weeks before Christmas, throughout this great land.

Our elves on the homefront were lending a hand…

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Holiday Meals were bagged up and stuffed

To give to the families we can’t thank enough…

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Wishes were granted and moments were shared

Letting military families know that all of us cared… 

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The smiles of the families and joy that abounded

Reminded us all of the mission we founded…

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To remember the many who serve so we remain free

Who won’t be home this year to decorate their tree… 

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We hope you are home soon and with loved ones so dear,

Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!

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Thank you for helping Operation Homefront build strong, stable, and secure military families – all year long.

Special thanks this year to

Dollar Tree, Walmart, BeamSuntory, Amazon, CDW, Loves Travel Stops and Country Store,

Thirty-One, Ocean Spray, Navy Federal Credit Union, Samuel Adams, RetailMeNot.

 

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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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Sept. 11, 2001. In an instant, our sense of invulnerability was gone. An enemy attack here at home, only rivaled by Pearl Harbor 60 years before. Nearly 3,000 lives were lost, each one linked to a family, a home, a good life.

Americans have an uncanny ability to turn grief into motivation. We took a heavy blow on that day, but it was nowhere near a knockout. Why? Because of our American spirit. It is impossible to quantify or calculate or defeat.

Our ancestors had it when they came here seeking a new land of opportunity. Our forefathers fought for it and scribed it between the lines of the Declaration of Independence. The early pioneers carried it with them across wild plains and jagged mountains. The Civil War forced us to look ourselves in the eye and give everyone the right to claim it. The best and brightest forged a future of creativity and industry, inspired by it. The greatest generation had it in spades through the wars of the early 20th century. And we could go on and on.

Only 14 years separate us from that fateful day. 5,113 days. And every day, we’ve relied on our American spirit in one form or another.

For our military community, the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks meant 13 years of war. More than 6,000 brave Americans lost their lives in a combat zone while more than 52,000 have been wounded in action. Yet the American spirit persists. It’s with the soldier halfway across the world as he focuses on his mission. It’s with the family waiting for mom to come home safely from deployment. It keeps a wounded hero company in his most difficult hours. It spurs an entire nation to patriotism and pride in those who sacrifice so much for our freedom. It is the backbone of who we are.

Whether it’s defined as tenacity, gumption, chutzpah, initiative or plain old orneriness, our American spirit leads us forward. Deep within us is the desire to rise up and reject an act of hatred meant to crush us.

It is this passion that is the force behind movements like the 9/11 Day, the largest annual day of charitable engagement in the United States. Each year more than 40 million Americans observe September 11 by performing good deeds that help others.

How will you observe Sept. 11? Pause for a moment to reflect on that day, not so long ago. And never forget those fellow Americans and their families who paid a terrible price. Then, make a difference. Volunteer. Give back. There is no better way to honor those whose memory will stay with us forever.

At Operation Homefront, thousands of military families come to us to help them get through tough times so they can move forward to a stable and more secure future. We couldn’t do it without help from our generous donors. You can give too, and join the national effort to turn tragedy into an opportunity to shine.

 

 

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Memorial-Day-2015-pause-remember-operation-homefrontAll of us hold dear the memory of loved ones who have passed on. We likely take time, each year, to remember the loss, and do so with a mingled sense of both fondness and sadness. We do so to keep them with us in spirit.

Memorial Day is special as we, as a nation, have the opportunity to take a moment to remember and reflect upon the loss of those who have had a profound impact on preserving the freedoms we enjoy daily. By honoring their memories, we sustain the spirit these fallen heroes shared with us.

My father served in World War II, and was one of the thousands of American and Filipino troops captured when the U.S. surrendered the Bataan Peninsula. He survived the death march, and was a prisoner of war for three and a half years. He never spoke much of his time in captivity, but it was clear that those who were lost during this difficult period came home with him in spirit. Years later, during my own service, I stood on the tarmac at Dover AFB to honor those who were making the final journey home and knew I was also bringing home loved ones in spirit.

As we get ready to enjoy an extended holiday weekend, all Americans can take part in bringing those we have lost in our nation’s service home in spirit by joining in the national moment of remembrance that takes place at 3 p.m. local time on Monday afternoon. Let us keep them with us in spirit.

With honor and in service to all,

John I Pray, Jr.

President and CEO, Operation Homefront

 

 

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Official Sponsor of Holiday Hugs!

Official Sponsor of Holiday Hugs!

“IM COMING HOME!!!!”

“Going to NY & surprising my parents!”

Are you an active duty service member trying to figure out how to get home for the holidays?  Then you will DEFINITELY want to read on…

Operation Homefront through support from Walmart is pleased to bring active duty Service Members Home for the Holidays!  Active duty Service Members are invited to apply for travel dates between December 1, 2013-January 5, 2014.

Applications for Home for the Holidays will be accepted through November 1.  OH reserves the right to close the application site earlier if all tickets are distributed.

  • CONTINENTAL 48    OH will fly 450 Service Members Home for the Holidays.  Service Members may apply to fly home to visit immediate family and/or legal military dependents.
  • HAWAII, ALASKA & OVERSEAS    OH will fly 50 Service Members from Hawaii, Alaska or overseas locations to the continental 48 states to be Home for the Holidays.

Click here for Requirements, Rules and Restrictions and to apply.

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