In March 2011, sailor Sonisha Alcide was stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. A mission in the Persian Gulf had just been completed when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. A 50-foot tsunami and the earthquake aftermath killed nearly 16,000 people. The waters flooded the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, causing a meltdown.
One day after the disaster, the USS Reagan was one of the first American vessels to arrive at the Fukushima plant as part of Operation Tomodachi, the United States humanitarian mission to support Japan. Sonisha, a mechanical nuclear propulsion plant manager and engineering laboratory technician, was one of about 20 sailors responsible for monitoring radioactive contamination levels of the shipboard spaces, personnel, and aircraft. The deployment was part of her six years of service in the Navy.
Both Sonisha and her husband, Alson Watson, also a Navy veteran, joined the Navy to serve their country, help people, and pay for college. With her discharge in 2014, they wanted to focus on their family and become homeowners. Buying a house remained out of reach until she applied to Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront (HOTH) program. This fall, Sonisha, Alson and their daughter Ava, 6, will move into a mortgage-free, three-bedroom, two-bath house in Kerhonkson, New York.
“In a world where so much horrible happens to people, I can’t even describe how it would feel to have something so beautiful happen to us,” Sonisha said. “For a blessing like this, it’s indescribable.”
As part of HOTH, Sonisha and Alson will receive one-on-one financial counseling to help save money, pay down debt, and raise their credit scores. The couple is excited about the financial counseling and moving to a more rural area. Kerhonkson reminds the couple of the Puget Sound area where Sonisha was stationed at the time Ava was born. A dual-military family, the couple met in 2009 after Sonisha finished boot camp and both were stationed in Charleston, South Carolina.
She hopes that having her own home and having more financial stability will give her the time she needs to complete her master’s degree in HR management. Alson will transfer his job at the U.S. Postal Service.
“There are no words to describe what [donors] are doing for people,” Sonisha said. “We can all say how grateful we are. We can all try to express how amazing it feels to be given something like this (home), but there are no words to describe the impact on the lives of me and my family and the other families. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul. Never in a million years would I have thought that something this gracious and this amazing would have happened to us and I’m just so grateful.”