Omar Mangome Senati was 30 years old when he enlisted in the Air Force. It was something he had always wanted to do but because his mother was sick, he had to keep pushing back. By the time he was able, his age meant he needed a waiver. Omar was determined and after getting permission he realized his dream and became an airman.
Thirteen years later, life in the Air Force has provided his family—wife, Ileana Cordero, and daughters Mia, 9, and Zoe, 7—with adventure and travel. But they have also had to find ways to stretch the budget for their family of four.
Ileana discovered Operation Homefront through an online posting once they moved to Fort Bragg, where they have lived for five years. At their first Back-to-School Brigade event, Mia was the only daughter in school. Zoe was too young. Now, the girls look forward to the goodies but also the time they have spent gathering with other military kids and families. The girls even picked OH as their nonprofit of choice to donate a $250 prize they won at singing contest on base.
This year’s BTSB event, held in August in partnership with CSX’s Pride in Service program, was modified to follow protocols and requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a walk-up event. Families had to get temperature checks before they went in to get their backpacks. Ileana missed the camaraderie of past events but said she understood that safety came first.
“I was still very happy they had the event,” she said. “It’s a huge blessing to our family knowing that we are getting the backpack and all the school supplies, I don’t have to worry about that. That is a huge relief.”
She said she hopes the donors and partners of Operation Homefront understand how they impact families.
“I would give donors a huge thank you for all they do,” Ileana said. “I don’t know if they can really understand what a blessing it is for each kid to receive a backpack for when school is going to start. I’m not sure if the people who put all of this together understand the blessing they are giving us.”