While the holidays can be filled with joy, friendship and family, they can also be a stressful time for military families who are on a tight budget or are separated from their loved ones.
Thanks to our generous donors, Operation Homefront’s Holiday Meals for Military program helps fill some of those gaps by providing military and veteran families with a dinner complete with all the fixings. Throughout the holiday season, Operation Homefront and their partners will have hosted nearly 60 events nationwide, serving more than 10,400 families.
Some of the events also include toy giveaways and visits from Santa.
At a recent Thanksgiving event in San Antonio, Texas, hosted by San Antonio Shoemakers, more than 400 families picked up meal kits and their turkey. Now in its fifth year, the shoe company’s HMFM event has distributed 9,500 meals across Texas since the partnership began, and this year they packed 1,600.
Military spouse Jackie Cino brought her triplets and made sure to tell her friend Stephanie Robirds, another military spouse, so she too could come along to pick up a meal. This was the third year in a row for Jackie whose husband Miles is a staff sergeant in the Army. He’s served for 11 years and is now stationed at Fort Sam Houston where he and Stephanie’s husband, Chris, a staff sergeant with seven years of service, work as instructors.
“This year we’re doing dinner for guys that don’t have their family here that will be coming to eat with us,” Jackie said.
Stephanie and Jackie thanked donors who help out, “especially this time of year,” Stephanie said, “because money is always tight.”
With more than 100 volunteers from SAS Shoes who either packed up the dinner kits during the week or helped with distribution on the weekend, SAS CEO Nancy Richardson said the company’s employees want to help make a difference. San Antonio is known as “military city” and many of the employees have either served themselves or have family members who are veterans or active duty.
“Part of what we are trying to do here is not to make it seem like a platitude,” she said. “But, to actually do something that feels meaningful to them in a positive way so that they truly do feel appreciated.”
At the weekend distribution, three active duty airmen helped carry frozen turkeys. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Warden is in the volunteer reserves for Operation Homefront and this year brought along Air Force Master Sgt. William Laflair and Master Sgt. Nancy Horsey.
Nancy said she would like the donors to know that “a lot of military members would have a hard time at the holidays and this really makes it easier for them.”
Ashley sees volunteering for OH as a time to pay it forward from when she would get assistance.
“Especially this time of the year, there’s no better time to give back and be thankful for what we have and what we have benefited from in the past and help others who might be struggling or might experiencing a rough patch,” she said.
The San Antonio event gave Operation Homefront staff and volunteers the opportunity to meet some new people as well as catch up with some longtime friends.
Veteran Army Spc. Charles Henry was one of those familiar faces. In 2012, Charles received a home through Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program.
“During Thanksgiving time, it’s always something we don’t have to think about because Operation Homefront is there for us,” he said.
He often tells people about Operation Homefront’s programs and the great support his family has received. He hopes donors and volunteers, like those at San Antonio Shoes who hosted the HMFM event, plus OH staff and volunteers know they are making a difference.
“My family thanks you,” Charles said. “We are very appreciative of the work they’ve done in San Antonio and throughout the United States. (Operation Homefront) is a great organization that changes veterans’ lives, as they did mine.”