Andrew Poland joined the Army while in college because he was looking for camaraderie, brotherhood and a sense of purpose. He planned on a career but after a tour in Iraq resulted in PTSD, he opted after four years of service to go back to civilian life in 2010.
He and his wife, Kelly, settled in Alabama, near his family. The transition from the Army was more difficult than he expected and his PTSD has made finishing his degree or going to work more difficult.
“Since I’ve gotten out from the military I’ve been through the ringer,” Andrew said. “And me and my family have been through some dark, dark times.”
Saving for a house for their family seemed next to impossible, until a resource counselor told him about Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront (HOTH) program. He created an account and checked back frequently, not quite believing his luck when he saw a home available in Riverside, Alabama.
Kelly did not want to get her hopes up, she said, so when the family was notified, they were accepted into the program, she and Andrew were ecstatic, and also in disbelief.
“Once we found out we were beside ourselves,” she said. “We couldn’t finish the phone call. We were stunned at first. She was trying to tell us all the important information and we were just so excited.”
As part of the two-year program, the family moved into a HOTH home and will receive financial counseling to build savings, decrease debt, and increase their credit scores. Upon successful completion, Operation Homefront will deed Andrew the home, donated by JPMorgan Chase, mortgage-free.
Their kids, Tommy, 3, and Lylee, 6, talked nonstop about moving into their new house. They were especially excited that they would each get their own room. And they have already started angling for a new swing set for the backyard.
For Andrew, the move will mean more outdoor space that will help him cope with his PTSD.
“I really love recreation therapy, being outdoors, and because this house is where it is, this is going to aid in me being able to kayak and fish and being outdoors and utilize recreation therapy because the water is right out my back door,” Andrew said. “We are blessed to have this opportunity. It’s going to set us up, give us a base to go from and be proactive in our lives to make our lives better. It’s going to set us up for success. It’s kind of like a master reset button.”
Andrew volunteers for a nonprofit that takes veterans out on eight-day excursions and he said that what he likes about Operation Homefront is how much the organization is focused on the family.
“We thank the donors very much,” he said. “The fact they do this for other military families and it’s concentrated on the whole family, is really important. The family is the backbone of the veteran. Without the family you don’t have a sound support system.”
Kelly echoed his sentiments.
“To (Operation Homefront’s) donors, this is a huge emotional relief,” Kelly said. “Everyone has to figure out how they are going to keep a roof over their head. I can’t even say it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity because it’s so much more than that. We are beyond blessed. We are eternally grateful.”