Like many of the military families Operation Homefront serves, Rebekah Reyes and her husband Edgar started their military journey 1,400 miles from family at their first duty station in Fort Polk, Louisiana. Edgar was a private first class in the Army, and Rebekah was VERY pregnant with their second son.
“Looking back, I’m not sure how we got by,” Rebekah said.
For some young military families, the slightest financial can change create stress on an already fragile budget.
“We received a call last minute that my two stepdaughters were coming for Christmas,” she said. “At this time of our lives and marriage, we had nothing, and we could barely feed ourselves at that time, let alone have Christmas for our girls.”
The next day Rebekah pulled out the Yellow Pages and started calling. She found a local church giving out gifts (Dollar Tree toys). Meanwhile, Edgar found a program giving out Christmas trees and a program giving out holiday meals. “That was one of my favorite Christmases,” she said.
After experiencing the impact of programs that help out junior enlisted military members, she became an advocate and volunteered for many of them, including Operation Homefront. Rebekah wanted to make sure no one was ever as lost and alone as her family was that holiday long ago.
After a year working with Operation Homefront as an AmeriCorps member, Rebekah was promoted to program coordinator and began handling recurring family support programs in Texas delivering much-needed relief in times of need through Operation Homefront programs like Back-to-School Brigade, Star-Spangled Babies Showers, Holiday Meals for Military, and Holiday Toy Drives – the very same programs that helped Rebekah when she was a young Army spouse. “I know the need, and I know the impact our programs have to make military families stronger,” Rebekah said.
Last November, Rebekah helped a young, dual-military couple begin their Start Strong, Stay Strong journey by welcoming them to San Antonio, listening to them, and offering Operation Homefront resources. She was at a local storage facility picking up supplies and noticed them trying to get a storage unit.
“They had just arrived in San Antonio during a pandemic, their housing was not ready for them, and they needed to rent a storage unit for a few days until they could move in the following week,” she said.
Rebekah had been in the young couple’s shoes many times and knew the stress of changing duty station and moving with small children to a new place.
“They told me that this was their first duty station and went on to tell me about the struggles they had encountered,” Rebekah said. “I told them about Operation Homefront and our many programs.”
She invited them to attend the Holiday Meals event that weekend. “A week later, I got a text thanking me for the meal and my kindness,” Rebekah said. “They told me that the frozen turkey was the first thing they put into their fridge in their new home.”
Rebekah knows that by helping military families start strong, they have the ability to stay strong throughout their military life and beyond. She and her family are proof.
“I continue to do what I do each day because I can still remember what it was like being a young mother and military spouse that was lonely and scared,” she said. “Operation Homefront allows me to give back to the community that ‘raised me’ and introduce military families to all of the program resources out there for them. By being there for them in their time of need, I am able to help them on their journey to start strong and stay strong.”