Posts Tagged ‘Operation Homefront’

Operation Homefront is pleased to announce the seven winners of the prestigious 2018 Military Child of the Year® Award, the nation’s premier celebration of the achievements of our military children.

The 2018 Military Child of the Year® Award recipients are as follows:


2018 Military Child of the Year®, U.S. Army:

Rebekah Paxton, 17

Harrisonville, Missouri

Home School








2018 Military Child of the Year®, U.S. Navy:

Isabelle Richards, 13

Jamul, California

High Tech Middle School








2018 Military Child of the Year® , U.S. Marine Corps:

Joshua Frawley, 14

Jacksonville, North Carolina

White Oak High School








2018 Military Child of the Year®, U.S. Air Force:

Eve Glenn, 16

Tampa, Florida

T. R. Robinson High School








2018 Military Child of the Year®, U.S. Coast Guard:

Roark Corson, 17

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Ocean Lakes High School








2018 Military Child of the Year®, National Guard:

Aaron Hall, 16

Coarsegold, California

Minarets High School








2018 Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation:

Shelby Barber, 17

Ewa Beach, Hawaii

James Campbell High School








2018 marks the 10th anniversary of the awards, which each year has provided the extraordinary young recipients with opportunities to be recognized by senior military leaders, elected officials, celebrities, and other remarkable military children.

The Military Child of the Year® Award reflects the positive impact that these special young people have made on their military families, their schools, and their communities. The award recipients will travel to Washington, D.C., to be recognized at a gala on April 19, during which senior leaders of each branch of service will present the awards. They also will each receive $10,000, a laptop computer, and other donated gifts. The Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation recipient will work directly with a Booz Allen Hamilton team to develop a plan to help scale the recipient’s project — drawing on technology and strategic thinking as a part of the corporation’s competitive Summer Games.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we profile each recipient.

A huge thanks to United Technologies Corporation for being our gala’s presenting sponsor. Additional sponsors include Booz Allen Hamilton, MidAtlanticBroadband, LaQuinta Inns & Suites, and Procter & Gamble. Military Times is the media sponsor.


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Veteran Receives Mortgage-Free Home in Washington, North Carolina:

today awarded a mortgage-free home to U.S. Marine Sergeant Ronald Seaver and wife, U.S. Marine Corporal Laura Seaver, through Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program. The home was donated by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“We are extremely excited to become home owners,” said Ronald. “This new house means stability because before we were constantly moving.”

“My kids will be able to make friends and have a room – I love the fact that we will be stable and close to Laura’s family,” added Ronald. “This is life-changing, thank you Operation Homefront and Chase and God bless you all – you all are in my prayers.”

After receiving great scores as a firefighter, Ronald rose to the rank of sergeant. He served as an aircraft rescue and firefighter specialist. Some of his responsibilities were to perform applicable firefighting functions and assist in all phases of rescue incidents. During his 10-year term, he was deployed to Iraq in 2008. In 2012, he medically retired with an honorable discharge.

Ronald met his wife Laura through a mutual friend. Laura was also a Marine and was inspired to serve because she herself comes from a military family. Her sister, brother, and father were service members. She was stationed at Parris Island, South Carolina, and he was stationed five miles north in Beaufort. Ronald and Laura have been married for 10 years and have three children, two sons and a daughter.

Laura’s family lives in the Greenville area and will be closer to them, school, and the Veterans Affairs Hospital for Ronald. His plans are to spend quality time with his children and go back to school and earn a bachelor’s degree in public administration or human resources. Laura is going to school and plans to finish her second associates degree in human resources and bachelor’s degree in business administration by next year.

In 2012, Operation Homefront created the Homes on the Homefront program with the assistance of corporate partners to award mortgage-free homes to our nation’s veterans and military families. They have awarded over 600 homes to military families nationwide through the program.

Operation Homefront has provided since inception over $64 million dollars in home equity to military families. The homes are donated by bank partners, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and other major financial services companies and home builders.

Anyone looking for more information or to apply can go to www.homesonthehomefront.org.



About Operation Homefront:

Founded in 2002, Operation Homefront is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families so that they can thrive – not simply struggle to get by – in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. Recognized for superior performance by leading independent charity oversight groups, 92 percent of Operation Homefront expenditures go directly to programs that support tens of thousands of military families each year. Operation Homefront provides critical financial assistance, transitional and permanent housing and family support services to prevent short-term needs from turning into chronic, long-term struggles. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the support from thousands of volunteers, Operation Homefront proudly serves America’s military families.

For more information, visit OperationHomefront.org.

JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to service members and veterans:

JPMorgan Chase, a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.5 trillion and operations worldwide, has supported our veterans since before World War I. The Office of Military and Veterans Affairs (MVA), started in 2011, has hired more than 12,000 veterans and facilitated more than 400,000 veteran hires through the Veteran Jobs Mission coalition; awarded more than 950 mortgage-free homes to military families in need; 17 in South Carolina; helped 9,520 veterans and spouses – at no cost – complete 15,554 courses through the Veterans Career Transition Program, which was co-founded and is supported by JPMorgan Chase and Syracuse University; and invested $4.2 million to support veteran-owned small businesses through access to capital and education.

Learn more at: www.jpmorganchase.com/veterans



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Dustin and Bethany at the ceremony.

Surrounded by the flash of cameras and the buzz of journalists requesting an interview, U.S. Army veteran Dustin Perkins received red-carpet treatment as he prepared himself to accept the Veteran’s Education Award at this year’s Vetty Awards.

“It was super exciting, there were a lot of actors and actresses there. John Kelly, Jake Tapper and Nate Boyer…it was overwhelming.”

Coming from a strong military family, Dustin always saw a future of serving. At age 25, he decided to follow his father’s footsteps and enlist in the Army, not far from his hometown of Bensenville, IL. He served four years as a watercraft engineer and rose to the rank of specialist before being honorably discharged in 2010.

After transitioning from military to civilian life, Dustin decided to dedicate himself to helping other service members adjust after the military.

Dustin with Jake Tapper.

“I know it’s been said time and time again, but in the military, you are told where to be, at what time, in uniform. Everything is predetermined,” Dustin said. “Suddenly you don’t have that. It sounds small but suddenly you find yourself thinking, what do I do?”

As Dustin entered civilian life, he wanted to establish roots for him and his family. Dustin heard about Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program from his college’s Veterans Club. One of his friends was a recipient and encouraged him to apply.

Thanks to Operation Homefront and Chase, Dustin was a recipient of a mortgage-free home in 2016.

“I felt really warm and fuzzy and just overwhelmed with excitement when I received that call.” Dustin said. “It’s close to my job and having this home has improved my quality of life, financially and emotionally.”

Dustin with Nate Boyer.

A few years later, he is being recognized for his efforts to help his fellow veterans achieve their educational goals.

Dustin recalls the moment one of his coworkers nominated him for the award.

“He called me into his office and asked me, ‘Tell me what it is you do for that nonprofit?’ As I was telling him I noticed him typing and asked what he was doing,” Dustin said. “He just said, ‘Oh, I’m just nominating you for this award.’”

Dustin had never heard of the Vetty Awards before then, and now stood on the red carpet with people he admired, all there to celebrate him.

“Everybody was very welcoming,” Dustin said. “It was overwhelming and

Dustin with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly

nerve-wracking but amazing to be a part of. It felt like we were the stars instead of them. We felt honored and very special to be there.” See a Facebook Live feed of Dustin receiving his award.

Dustin has dedicated 1.5 years as volunteer Director of Marketing for Student Veterans of America, an organization whose mission is to provide programs, mentorship events, motivation and volunteer opportunities for veterans. Before that, he was president of the Veterans Club at his college.

As for what lies ahead, Dustin has received a promotion at his job at ITsavvy. He is currently working to receive his Project Management Certification and hopes to start a family in the near future.

For service members facing transition, Dustin offers some advice.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s a multitude of assets and resources out there for you. Don’t be shy. Use them.”

To learn more about Operation Homefront programs or how you can support the current needs of military families in your community, please visit www.operationhomefront.org/needs/list

-Interview and blog by Cynthia Leyva

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We are pleased to be able to share with our community a New Year’s message from Operation Homefront’s President & CEO, John I. Pray, Jr., Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.)

Happy New Year!  We just finished a very exciting and highly successful 2017 and I am proud to say that due to the exceptional efforts of our entire community … volunteers, partners, donors and staff … we are well postured to continue delivering impactful programs to America’s military families throughout 2018.

As we start our new year, I feel it is important to reflect on who we are and why we do what we do. We at Operation Homefront believe in giving our military families the opportunity to thrive, not simply struggle to get by, in the communities they have worked so hard to protect.

This mission statement drives our team throughout the year.  All work to help our military families in their time of need because of all they have done for us in our nation’s time of need.

Similarly, I believe very strongly in Operation Homefront’s core values and see them as more than grand aspirational concepts and know you do too. They are real guides that shape our decisions and daily behaviors:  Do What’s Right, Respect Others, Perform with Excellence … and of course, Gratitude. We are honored to be recognized as a key conduit by which Americans can show their appreciation for all that our military community does on our behalf, and we are incredibly grateful to all who help us accomplish our mission.

We have many challenges and opportunities ahead in 2018 and it will take a well-coordinated and cohesive effort to bring our vital mission to life. Each member of our community performs a critical role, both individually and as part of a larger team. Our Core Values provide the common framework that allows us to work together and support each other in a culture that emphasizes trust and continuous improvement.

Only by working together will we make a difference, and thereby, make the lives of a very special and deserving group of our fellow citizens better. For example, in just a short while, we will award our 600th mortgage-free home, and our Field Offices and programs team are already working on our year’s first Homefront Celebration for military spouses near Pensacola, a Hearts of Valor retreat for the caregivers of our nation’s wounded, among many other events for 2018. Just last week, we announced the semi-finalists for the 2018 Military Child of the Year® Award, our 10th year of recognizing outstanding young people from 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

I invite you to learn more about Operation Homefront’s programs, and how you can get involved in 2018.

Sharing our noble mission with my fellow Americans is incredibly rewarding. I am grateful to each you who have joined us in serving America’s military families. Let me end by saying thank you, in advance, for your support in what I expect will be an amazing 2018!

-John I. Pray, Jr.
President & Chief Executive Officer, Operation Homefront

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Before we jump into 2018, we’d like to look back at some of the best moments from this past year. It goes without saying that we are able to advance our mission to build strong, stable, and secure military families because of those who give – our individual and corporate donors. Thank you! These moments would not happen without you.

1. These women came to our caregiver retreat…in a hurricane! As Hurricane Harvey was skirting San Antonio, we were hosting a group of caregivers along the Riverwalk for a very special retreat, as part of our Hearts of Valor program. They would not be kept away by a hurricane and there’s a good reason. These retreats are designed to uplift those who are closest to wounded veterans. The retreats give caregivers a much-needed break and education about invisible wounds, compassion fatique, healthy living and staying connected. Special thanks to our sponsor, USAA, for making these retreats possible.


2. Our annual gala to celebrate military kids has become a must-attend event! Celebrating the youngest heroes of our military families is one of our favorite things to do. This year’s Military Child of the Year® Award, once again, recognized several outstanding young men and women who represent their families, their branches of service and their country very well. Read more about them and you’ll be inspired. Looking forward to meeting next year’s award recipients in April 2018 in Washington D.C. Who will they be? We’ll find out in early March! #GivingStrength


3. There’s no place like home! We get to be a part of making dreams come true through our Homes on the Homefront program that awards mortgage-free homes to veterans. To date, we’ve awarded 599 homes since the program began. All of this is possible because of our great partners like Chase, Meritage Homes, Wade Jurney Homes and Sears (who donated and raised money to provide two homes to veteran families in 2017). Stay tuned as we plan a big celebration for our 600th home in 2018.



4. Special nights for military spouses? Yes, we did! The call to military life is not easy on a service member’s spouse. Being apart from your service member AND trying to hold down the homefront is managed more easily when you have friends nearby. Our Homefront Celebrations give military spouses a night away to relax, make new friends and be pampered just a little. And thanks to our friends at Southern New Hampshire University, these events have bolstered the careers for some very special women who received a full-tuition scholarship at each celebration, like Megan Morris (pictured here at our event in Tampa, FL). Stay tuned as we announce another year of Homefront Celebrations around the country in 2018.


5. Awwwwwww! At our Star-Spangled Baby Showers each year, we get all mushy at the sights and sounds of our expecting moms and the young moms who bring along their sweet newborns. In 2017, we hosted 9 events from coast to coast, a few places in between and even Hawaii, providing critical baby supplies and large raffle items to hundreds of military moms. We were also excited to be joined by Procter and Gamble and Paralympic veteran Melissa Stockwell at our baby shower in Chesapeake, VA.


6. The holidays wouldn’t be the same without you! It’s been an honor serving military families around the country. Thanks to our generous donors, we served more than 11,000 families with everything they needed for a spectacular holiday meal. Since we began our holiday programs in 2008, we have served nearly 80,000 military families, impacting over 330,000 family members. See our feature blog to celebrate another year of bringing joy to our military families this holiday season!


7. When it was time to hit the books, we made it a little easier. Going back to school is expensive. Military kids have enough to deal with and not having the right supplies should not be one of their struggles. We were happy to meet so many smiling faces, like this child in Dayton, OH, and remove the financial burden from their families. This year, we hit a major milestone, as we distributed our 300,000th backpack since the program began which included more than 41,000 backpacks given to military children around the U.S. this summer alone.


8. Home Depot Really Is #DoingMore4Vets! From golf tournaments to renovating veterans’ homes to providing support for our Critical Financial Assistance program, The Home Depot Foundation, and its band of Team Depot volunteers, are a long-time partner who support means so much as they join us in giving strength to military families! We were honored to present a Cornerstone Award to Heather Prill, Senior Manager, National Partnerships at The Home Depot Foundation for her contributions to the national nonprofit’s mission to build strong, stable, and secure military families this past September.


9. Transition from service can be a challenging time for veterans. Especially if they are coping with injuries and illnesses from their service. Our rent-free transitional housing villages stand ready to help when these families need it the most. Since inception, our villages have welcomed more than 500 families who lived in a rent-free, fully furnished apartment to help them make a smooth transition to civilian life. Our Critical Financial Assistance program helps military and veteran families overcome unexpected crises like a major appliance or car repair or help with rent or mortgage. We’ve been able to help veterans like Petero Taufagu who needed help getting his car repaired. Later, through our partnership with American Airlines, he also received a brand-new Jeep Cherokee. So now he has a reliable way to get to his necessary doctor appointments. Our donors, sponsors, and supporters are the reason we have been able to provide over $22 million in financial aid, fulfilling more than 40,000 requests.


10. Fact IS Stranger Than Fiction! We can’t make this stuff up!

a. Cracker Barrel created the Flip It Forward Pancake Fundraiser and raised $64,000 for Operation Homefront! It included a media tour with a pancake artist who even created our logo in pancake batter. We thought about framing it…then thought again.

b. Who doesn’t secretly harbor the desire to shatter glass? Our friends at CDW found a way to convince PGA TOUR players Ben Crane, Smylie Kaufman, Ryan Palmer and CDW-sponsored Gary Woodland to compete in a “glass breaking” event between the golf pros. And more was at stake than just bragging rights – winner Gary Woodland presented an additional donation of 10 Lenovo Chromebooks – five to Operation Homefront and five to the charity of Woodland’s choice. The entire event raised support for military families through Operation Homefront.

c. A personalized burger? Carnival Cruise Lines is known for fun but they outdid themselves when they devised a way to laser-burn personal well-wishes from military supporters onto burgers they served to Marines at a special event at MCAS Miramar in California. They even got former Miss USA DeShauna Barber there to serve the burgers and provided a $25,000 donation to Operation Homefront. You have to see the pictures to believe it.

d. We’ll brave a blizzard for you! We were still in the doldrums of summer heat when Chevy first invited us to be a part of their #ChevySalutes event to honor the military at the Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia. Let’s just say winter hit with a vengeance that day and provided a very memorable experience to award a brand-new 2018 Chevrolet Traverse to one of the nicest caregivers and her seven-tour combat veteran husband. Don’t worry, we dressed warmly, mom!


11. We still get starstruck! We’ve been excited to work with some pretty inspiring people this year.

a. The Pale Ale Wins the Summer of Yes! Carson Daly who worked with Other Half Brewing to create a craft beer with proceeds to support Operation Homefront as part of his #SummerOfYes on the Today Show.

b. Wonder-Super-Mega-Amazing Melissa Stockwell: Through our partnership with P&G, we got to work with the very inspiring Melissa Stockwell, who is a bronze-medal winning, 2-time Paralympian, triathlete and Purple Heart wounded Army veteran. She attended one of our Star-Spangled Baby Showers in Virginia and has since welcomed her own baby Millie to her sweet family.

c. Tim McGraw Walks the Walk. And where do we start with Tim McGraw? We’ve been working with this country superstar since 2012. From his personal support to joining us to award mortgage-free homes along with Chase, he has been a steadfast champion for military and veteran families. #GivingStrength #startstrongstaystrong


12. We have the best volunteers! Our volunteers show up and pitch in whenever they are needed. We host hundreds of events all year long from Alaska to the tip of Florida, from San Diego to Massachusetts. This year, we created a special Volunteer Reserves which recruits our volunteers that want to get involved, but don’t want to volunteer on a daily basis or even a weekly basis, but they’re very interested in staying in the loop and ready to be called on when we need help serving our military families.

There are so many moments to remember in 2017. And each was an honor because we got to be a part of serving our military and veteran families. That makes any year a great year!

If you’d like to be a part of giving strength this holiday season and making our 2018 even better, consider giving to a current need of a military family to give them the best start possible to the New Year!


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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.”

blog peteron400pix

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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Continuing our annual “11Days, 11 Stories” series honoring Veterans this month, where we spotlight the stories of veterans we have met through our work here at Operation Homefront.  You can find previous stories here:

Veterans like Nataly Morales and Joshua Virola embody the can-do spirit found in so many other former service members, who volunteer, on average, more hours than nonveterans.

While the rate of volunteering among all Americans, 25.5 percent of the population, is comparable to the volunteering rate for veterans, veterans put in an average of 43 more hours per year for a total of 169 hours, according to a 2016 study, the Veterans Civic Health Index.

Nataly, a Marine from 2002 through 2004, and her husband, Joshua, who served 15 years and deployed three times on active duty and as a reservist with the Marine Corps, received gifts from Operation Homefront’s Holiday Toy Drive in 2014 for their children, Carisma, 14; Faith, 9; and Isaiah, 7. After that, the whole family became regular volunteers for Operation Homefront over the next two years, until right before they moved to Texas at the end of 2016, when Joshua got out of the Marines as an E-5.

“They immediately asked how they could give back and started volunteering for every event,” said Vivian Dietrich, an Operation Homefront regional director.

Even though Nataly and Joshua were busy preparing for their move from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to Grand Prairie, Texas, they helped OH bag and transport the P&G products, including cleaning supplies and tissues, that were given away at the 2016 Thanksgiving Holiday Meals for Military event. First, they drove their car, while an OH staff member drove her vehicle, over two hours away to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to pick up the stored goods and bring them to a storage facility in Jacksonville, North Carolina, closer to Camp Lejeune. Later, Nataly and Joshua retrieved the products, and brought them to the event site at a school, using the U-Haul truck they had rented for their move to Texas. They also helped fill the reusable Thirty-One tote bags with groceries provided by Walmart.

Their children helped at OH events too, organizing supplies or handing out refreshments. “I’ve always tried to teach them to help, and they love it,” Nataly said. “It’s really cute to see them work.”

For Nataly and people like her, helping others is a form of sustenance. “We made the time,” she said. “It felt good.”

“We would have people over to our house on a daily basis because they didn’t have food,” Nataly said. Their dinner company included a lance corporal, his wife and their two young kids, and a sergeant, his wife and their two children.

“Usually, we’re the givers and we never take,” said Nataly, adding that’s why they were so appreciative of OH’s assistance. “Anytime that we receive anything from any kind of program, I cry because we’ve had some really rough times,” she said. “The kids have seen and have felt the rough times that we’ve had. To have people that actually care and they donate things, it breaks my heart. That meant a lot.”

In keeping with their giving nature, Nataly and Joshua chose where to live after he left the Corps, based on where they are needed the most.

Having met while both were on active duty, they each have family in their respective home states — Texas for Nataly and New York for Joshua. They chose Texas partly because of its lower cost of living, but mainly so they can help Nataly’s family. Her mom is sick with lupus and other health conditions; one sister is a single mom of three kids; and another sister has a child with special needs. “There’s a lot more need here,” she said. Her brother, a Marine Corps master sergeant stationed in Virginia, has kids who also live in north Texas. The third weekend of every month, Nataly cares for his kids, and takes them to their soccer games.

The family continues its volunteering with The Miracle League Dallas Fort Worth, for children with disabilities who want to play baseball, including Nataly’s niece.

Joshua works as a crane mechanic. He and Nataly hope his latest transition to civilian life goes better than a previous attempt. “We tried the civilian world for a little bit,” said Nataly, referring to the earlier stint in 2008, in between Josh’s active-duty and reservist periods. “It didn’t work out.”

Joshua first served four years on active duty, got out, and deployed to Iraq as a reservist for six months in 2006. During his 2008 stint as a civilian, he had found work as a warehouse manager. The company moved them to Mohave Valley, Arizona, “one of the hottest places I’ve ever lived,” and laid him off six months later, Nataly said. “We were stuck there. We had no money to move back home.” The only income was from Nataly working from home as a flooring estimator for her dad. “We were able to pay the rent, but we were behind on the cars,” she said. “We had a hard time with food. It was the worst year.”

Joshua was gone a lot after being laid off, trying to get back into the Marine Corps. After returning to active duty in early 2009, he deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2010. Another year-long deployment to Afghanistan followed in 2011 and 2012.

Nataly works as a pregnancy educator at the American Pregnancy Association. She also takes classes at both Tarrant County College and University of Texas at Arlington. She expects to complete her associate degree in December, and will apply for UTA’s social work program in the spring. She wants to work with veterans, using what she has learned and experienced to assist others going through trying times. “I want them to get the help that they need,” she said. “I want to be that one person who makes a difference. If anybody understands them, it’s another veteran.”

We are grateful for our veterans, those who chose to raise their hand when they pledged to defend our country. Join in the conversation with us as we celebrate veterans among us, by sharing stories of your own. Through Facebook or Twitter, please use the hashtag #RaiseYourHand to share your own inspirational story or picture of your military experience or a veteran in your life.

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