Army veteran Laura Dixon got off the phone with the utility company and felt like she was drowning. She could not pay her bill and was hoping they would understand that her grandson, Isaiah, needed to have power for the machine he used to treat his asthma.
After 27 years in the service, Dixon never thought she would be in a financial place where she could not pay her bills. But an early medical retirement meant she now received only one check a month. Plus, in the past several years, Dixon paid for both her mother’s and father’s funeral, and has helped pay for medical and housing costs for her two adult daughters, both of whom have sickle cell anemia and are regularly hospitalized.
One of those daughters, Angelique, and her two sons, Isaiah, 9, and Jamar, 4, moved in with Laura after Angelique had a particular bad hospitalization related to the disease. This is how Laura found herself one day on the phone with the power company, begging to keep the utilities on in an effort to keep Isaiah on his nebulizer.
“They were threatening to disconnect the power and I panicked,” Laura said. “It was during that season when Isaiah was having a lot of asthma attacks. I contacted the utility company and said ‘if you could please work with me it would be great.’ But they weren’t willing. I still get emotional thinking about it. My grandson is my life. He’s my everything.”
Laura had never asked for help before. Her transition into civilian life after her 2018 medical retirement was not as smooth as she thought it would be. Only getting one check a month and the smaller amount made everything harder. A social worker at the VA told Laura about Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance (CFA) program. Thanks to generous donors, including The Coca Cola Foundation, Operation Homefront was able to pay Laura’s $364 utility bill.
“When it was paid, I just cried,” she said, holding back tears. “I know it doesn’t seem like a lot (of money) to others but to me it was a lifesaving blessing. I was so grateful. I just really, truly couldn’t be more grateful. I just couldn’t.”
Asking for financial assistance is not something Laura expected she would need to do after such a long military career. She misses the Army and would still be enlisted if not for the various injuries that she has received throughout the years. She was grazed in the leg by a bullet during a deployment to Iraq in 2004. Other wear and tear on her body resulted in another leg injury and she has PTSD.
“When I was active (duty) it was that feeling of pride, the feeling of helping others and protecting people,” she said. “And being able to provide for my family and my daughters and grandsons, it was a great feeling.”