Kenneth Heard had always wanted to join the military and in 2013, he did just that, signing up for the Navy. He was assigned to HSM-79 as an aviation rescue swimmer, during that time serving onboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and the U.S.S. Carl Vinson.
But after six years of service, he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that causes severe deterioration of the spine, resulting in a lack of mobility and severe pain. In early 2020, he learned he would have to medically retire.
He was unsure what he would do once he left military life. All of his family and his wife’s family were from the same town in Florida, while Kenneth and his family were stationed in San Diego. Plus, The COVID-19 pandemic was shutting down the country.
A resource officer told him about Operation Homefront. Kenneth has been accepted into the organization’s two transitional housing programs. In May, the Heard family moved into the Transitional Housing-Villages in San Diego. The program offers wounded, ill, or injured veterans and their families a place to transition into civilian life, while living in rent-free, fully furnished apartments.
In September, Kenneth is embarking on a new chapter in his civilian life with Operation Homefront’s Transitional Homes for Community Reintegration (THCR) program. Since 2018, THCR has helped families, who are transitioning out of the military, by offering them the opportunity to live in a rent-free, single-family home for a period of two to three years while they receive financial counseling and community reintegration support. The program recently added a home, donated by JPMorgan Chase, in Winter Garden, Florida, near Lake Apopka and 20 minutes outside of Orlando. The Heard family will be the first family matched with the home, which is just minutes away from where both Kenneth and his wife, Katelynn, grew up. Both of them work remote jobs. The couple is excited for their two children, Koa, 2, and Mia, 10 months, to live next to their grandparents.
Through THCR, the couple will work with their financial advisor to help them fully transition into civilian life and save money to buy their own home once they leave the program. The program is made possible with a generous donation from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation.
“There is such an appreciation for everything (donors) have done,” Kenneth said. “Myself and my family are forever grateful for the opportunity to help dampen the impact of our abrupt transition out and to allow us to help better position ourselves for our financial future”