Retired Army Staff Sgt. John Sandoval and his wife, Joanna, were separated from their eldest daughter for six years until they were recently able to bring her home. And for now, home means Operation Homefront’s Transitional Housing Village in San Antonio, Texas.
John, Joanna and their two youngest girls, Samantha, 15 months, and Thalia, 6 months, moved into the Village in August 2019. Daughter Lyhla, 6, grew up in the Philippines. Because of paperwork issues, John’s deployments, and cost, getting Lyhla’s American passport had been difficult.
The stability of the Village program—and the fact that families transitioning out of the military get to live rent-free and utility free in a fully furnished apartment—meant the Sandovals could finally save the money and have the time to work on bringing Lyhla to the U.S.
“It’s one of the reasons it’s good we are with Operation Homefront,” John said.
John applied to the Transitional Housing program when he learned that he would be medically retired from the military after serving 17 years. He was stationed in Korea when a truck collided into his during a motorcade. He had to have back surgery and now has a constant “needles and pins” feeling in his legs. Walking, bending over, tying his shoes, can all be difficult. The news he could no longer work for the military, when just three years from retirement, devastated him and sent him into a panic.
“I said just fix me up and I’m good,” he said. “Just give me a light duty job and I’ll be better. They said you’ll have some mobility but your military career is done. And I said, ‘I’m so close to retirement I’ll do anything.’ I begged for that. I said I’ll do anything, let me pick up trash, I’ve got a family, I’ll be homeless.”
He worried about his wife having to adjust to America while also being his caretaker and a mom. More than that, he worried about money and finding a home.
“We were so close to the finish line,” he said. “To have that taken away, woah, what are we going to do? Where are we going to live? This is the first time my wife had lived in America. Getting her visa approved, her driver’s license, it was all really challenging. I can’t even put on my shoes and socks. My wife has to help me.”
Once arriving at the village, the family felt a sense of relief. Not only did they have a nice place to stay but they got financial counseling, help budgeting for the future and the security and stability they needed to work on John’s treatment. The family hopes to become homeowners and build roots in San Antonio.
“Looking into the future is so hopeful,” John said. “The light at the end of the tunnel. There’s hope. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to fight and reach for our goals.”