After eight years of military service, Travis Putnam was looking forward to settling down and enjoying life. But he and his wife of 10 years, Heather, didn’t know what direction to go, other than to point their car north, toward the beautiful state of Maine.
Travis, a Maine native, joined the U.S. Army to fight for his country a few years after high school while he attended college. He enlisted in 2009 and immediately headed out for his first deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He quickly rose to the rank of sergeant first class and served as a combat engineer. He would build, repair, and maintain buildings and roads to ensure potential minefields were safe and clear. Travis deployed again in 2012 before medically retiring in 2017 with an honorable discharge. The hidden wounds of being in combat that affect so many service members — post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury — have also impacted Travis.
Following his retirement, Travis, his wife, and their three children moved from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, back to Maine, where both of them grew up. Travis’s fourth son also lives there with his mother. They stayed at his aunt’s house while they searched for a place to live.
However, the temporary living situation created more challenges. Not only was the couple struggling to find full-time employment, his aunt’s house became too crowded and stressful for Travis. So, Heather began to research housing assistance for veterans and military families. She learned about Operation Homefront’s rent-free Transitional Housing (Villages) program and immediately applied to the OH Village located in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
The Putnam family was accepted into the rent-free, utility-free, fully furnished three-bedroom apartment. They were accepted because they did not have the financial means to rent an apartment or home and faced homelessness. Travis will be graduating from the program at the end of June.
“Living at Operation Homefront’s Village has opened up so many opportunities,” Travis said. “The staff here went above and beyond to assist us in our transition.”
As part of the OH Transitional Housing program, Travis and Heather received guidance on how to save money, reduce their debt, and manage their finances. Eventually, they were able to pay off thousands of dollars in debt and save thousands more.
One of the biggest impacts Operation Homefront has had on the Putnams has been the stability given to the family in their everyday lives. The Village provided them with a safe place to live with a great school for the kids to thrive in. Most importantly, living within the Village program has removed the weight of financial stress so Travis and his family can focus on his health and getting better.
Fittingly, Travis is expected to graduate from the Village program in June, which is recognized as PTSD Awareness Month.
Soon, the Putnam family will return to Maine as they have made a down payment on a new home with the money they saved. They plan to live in a house in Heather’s hometown, just a couple of towns away from Travis’ aunt. Heather will continue to enjoy the active role of being a mom and Travis’ caregiver. To receive additional encouragement, she is now part of Operation Homefront’s Hearts of Valor caregiver program.
After everything he’s gone through, Travis now eagerly anticipates fulfilling his desire to settle down and enjoy life with his family in his new forever home.
Operation Homefront has housed more than 500 families in our rent-free transitional housing at our three OH Villages in San Diego, CA, San Antonio, TX and Gaithursburg, MD.
Blog by Jeremy Kolok, Communications Associate, Intern – Operation Homefront.