Raw with emotion, those moments in time when service members say farewell to loved-ones prior to deployment and when they return for a surprise homecoming are captured and often repeated in news stories, advertisements and now YouTube videos.
One scenario is heart wrenching, the other heart warming – yet both elicit the same goose bumps and tears. After all, these military families are making the ultimate sacrifice each and every day of their lives to protect our freedom and security.
Have you ever considered what it’s like for these families in between the well-documented going away and coming home moments? What happens in their homes while they are away and once they return? How does service change the lives of these families?
“For starters, consider the fact that 65 percent of deployed service people take a pay cut to serve,” Sarah Davis, Regional Director of Operation Homefront’s Central Great Lakes field office, said. “Then, it can take up to 300 days before they start getting paid or receiving any benefits once they return home. It’s rough.”
Davis was in Valparaiso on Thursday to thank members of the Boulder Bay Realty Group for their support this year.
“Our work is done stateside, we help the families during and after deployment,” she said. “There are a number of nonprofits that support the military, and we each have our own niche. The USO for example primarily provides support in-country.”
Established in early 2002 by two military wives who saw the great need to support the families of deployed service members immediately following 9/11, Operation Homefront has rapidly evolved into a major nonprofit. The organization currently provides services to military families across the US with 23 locations serving 43 states. Located in San Antonio, TX, the national office handles cases in states that do not have a local office.
“I’ve been in real estate since 1990, and giving back has always been a priority for me on a personal level,” Lynda Anderson, Broker-Owner of Boulder Bay Realty Group, said. “As a company we always gave here and there, but it was never really thought out. So as a group, we made the decision to try and make a bigger impact. Supporting a military nonprofit was an easy choice. Military principles are in line with ours – hard working, loyalty, knowledge, integrity, give back and dream big. We can’t have those dreams if they’re not out there defending them. We did quite a bit of research before choosing Operation Homefront, and the reason we chose them is simply the fact that an impressive .94 cents of every dollar goes to military families.”
“Our target population is American military personnel and/or their families who have unmet needs due to financial hardship, death, injury, or physical or mental detriment as a result of service in Iraq or Afghanistan – including active duty, Reserve, National Guard and veteran service members,” Davis, whose husband has been in the military for 30 years as a Reserve and has been deployed for active duty with the army three times, added. “The majority of our clients are the lowest-paid service members, the E-1 through E-6 enlisted ranks, and roughly 75 percent live at an income level 80 percent below the median income for the communities where they reside.”
“For every home we sell, we give a set portion to Operation Homefront. During our weekly meetings we acknowledge one another for good deeds and put those names in special star container. Then, once a month we choose a name and that person has the honor of choosing which of the current needs listed on the Operation Homefront website will receive that month’s contribution,” Anderson explained. “But, it’s more than that. We want to spread the word and get more people on board.”
Contributions to Operation Homefront help make life just a little easier for our military families and wounded warriors. Consider helping with a contribution as little as $20 for the following ongoing needs:
• Keep a roof over their head – many military families are facing eviction or foreclosure due to unexpected changes in their finances – transitioning wounded service members for example may see a pay decrease once their military pay stops and their disability benefits begin (plus the time with no pay at all - from when one stops and the other starts - can be as long as 300 days).
• Pay the electric bill – a donation of just $200 provides power for a month to a military family in need (wounded warriors often require special medical equipment for survival).
• Feed a family – food boxes, grocery gift certificates and vouchers help keep food on the table while case workers help with long-term solutions - a $20 gift provides a hot meal to a military family.
• Help a warrior transition to civilian life – provide a little extra help to families and wounded service members in need of housing during the transition process.
• Help keep an essential vehicle rolling – significant injuries often require daily medical visits and some wounded service members simply cannot afford to fix their vehicles when repairs are needed.
• Provide comfort for a military family – imagine turning on the tap to bathe your child and there isn’t any hot water because repairing or replacing the hot water heater was delayed due to deployment or injury recovery.
• Send a caregiver to a retreat – Caregivers are essential to the successful recovery of heroes wounded in combat, and they need the chance to get away, interact with others sharing a similar experience and rejuvenate.
You can see one example of how Operation Homefront is helping local service members in a short video “Even Heroes Need Help” on the Boulder Bay Realty Group website at boulderbayrealty.com.