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Family Story

A “Life Raft” for Veterans During Hard Times

By Operation Homefront

February 4, 2021

Terri Bell enlisted in the military after high school wanting a secure job and structure when her hope of attending college on a basketball scholarship did not work out. She was already dating a Marine (who she would eventually marry) and thought the military would be a good next step.

In 2002, she joined the National Guard and had a dual civilian and military job in logistics. She stayed for six years before getting out and enlisting in the Army Reserve. She was active-duty Army during a tour in Iraq from 2011-2012 near the tail end of Operation New Dawn. She likely would have stayed in for her full 20 years but the tour in Iraq “really affected me,” she said.  

After 16 years and earning the rank of sergeant first class, Terri decided to discharge. She was suffering from PTSD and anxiety, something she still copes with and can at times make working difficult.  

Terri and her husband had divorced following her tour in Iraq so she decided to move to New Jersey to live with a friend instead of going back to her hometown in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  

She bought a home in nearby Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and it needed a bit of work. Still, she was able to have renters who covered the mortgage. In early 2020, Terri was working as a security guard at a high school in New Jersey. She needed to take leave because of her PTSD and anxiety and planned on coming back, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With her renters out of work as well because of the pandemic, she could not pay the mortgage or other bills and got behind.   

So many things started going wrong, she said. Her car broke down and she could not make it to her VA appointments. It got to the point that Terri did not even have food to eat. Her depression worsened after her father and uncle got COVID-19. Her father survived but her uncle died and sadly she could not attend his funeral.  

She did not know where to turn until she was referred to Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance (CFA) program. She applied in September and thanks to our generous donors, was able to pay more than $4,300 toward utilities, mortgage, essential home items and food. 

“Operation Homefront helps veterans at a time when their back is up against a wall and they may not know how to necessarily ask for help,” Terri said. “I was drowning. I didn’t know what to do and y’all just threw me a raft and gave me life.” 

Terri was then picked to be part of The Home Depot Foundation’s Operation Surprise. In December, she found out that the foundation was paying two months of her mortgage, totaling $3,056.20. She learned about the gift while staying with her mom, stepfather and step-uncle in Kalamazoo. While there, she and her family got COVID-19. Her step-uncle was still fighting the disease in January but had seen improvement.  

Terri has since started a social media marketing agency called Got2Have Marketing with a focus on women owned businesses. The support from Operation Homefront and their donors have helped Terri see brighter days ahead. 

“I’m lost for words,” she said. “Man, this whole year has been lived on a prayer. I am just so grateful. I just got over COVID and so did my family. You guys are such a blessing! I felt like I was drowning and then you helped me. I mean it when I say that when I get on my feet, I am going to put you next to my tithes. I am a missionary and work very hard to help others. It is so appreciated and humbling to receive help myself.” 

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