Veteran Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Hughs did everything right. He planned for the future, landed a good civilian job as a teacher after he was medically retired from service, and he saved for retirement. In fact, he had approximately $150,000 in savings.
He gave back to his community in Thornton, Colorado, volunteering for a variety of organizations, including for over 10 years with Operation Homefront, delivering toys through the Holiday Toy Drives program. However, Stephen never expected that he would need assistance too.
But over the past three years, one medical calamity after another—including two car crashes that were the fault of other drivers, along with a big billing mistake on the part of the hospital, which billed his insurance instead of the VA—has drained his once robust bank account dry.
After being in the hospital and then a nursing home for five months because of a MRSA infection, Stephen had thousands of dollars in medical bills to pay and his credit cards were maxed out. His wife, Mary, was working nights and two of their three kids who still lived in the house, were helping as well, but it was not enough. He applied to Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance (CFA) program and thanks to generous donors, like Chobani, Stephen was able to pay more than $2,400 for utilities, mortgage, and auto insurance.
“When I actually found myself in need and there was someone there for me, that feels good,” Stephen said. “And that was Operation Homefront. When I applied for the program for help, I was so thankful it was there because what would I have done without it?”
Stephen served nearly 30 years combined in the Army and Army National Guard. He would still be serving if not for the medical retirement. During his time in the military, he has deployed several times. One of the most memorable was being stationed in South Korea for more than a year, spending three months at the DMZ.
“It did help me catch up,” Stephen said. “It helped me with a few of my bills to the point where it gave me some kind of financial stability and it gets me closer to that point where I can get my head above water a little bit.”