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Family Story

Transitional Home ‘Means the World’ to Veteran

By Operation Homefront

April 18, 2024

Transitional Home ‘Means the World’ to Navy Veteran and Family 

After 14 moves with the military and two since retiring from the service, Navy veteran James Bowen and his wife, Karen, are hopeful that move No. 17 will be into their forever home.

The Bowens and their three children settled in Zachary, Louisiana, after James retired in May 2022 following a 20-year career in the military. Building on his naval career as a nuclear electrician, James works as an instructor at River Bend Nuclear Power Plant in nearby St. Francisville, Louisiana.  

The family’s most recent relocation was into a house that is part of Operation Homefront’s Transitional Homes for Veterans (THV) program, and it’s just down the street from the house they were renting. The Bowens see the move putting them on the path to homeownership, James said.   

Being accepted into the THV program “means the world to our family,” she said. “This will give us the opportunity to get back on our feet, pay off medical bills, and create an amazing life for our family.” 

Families who are part of the THV program live rent-free in a home for about two years while accumulating emergency savings, paying down debt, and building credit scores. 

Operation Homefront currently has 32 houses in the THV program. Since it began in 2018, participants have saved more than $625,000 in housing costs through THV, and 15 families have graduated.  

Karen said the newly built THV house they moved into – made possible through the generosity of the MacKenzie Scott Foundation – came at a good time for the family and is ideally located in the neighborhood where they put down roots in Zachary only four months earlier. Moving within the new subdivision allowed the Bowen children to stay in the same schools and still hang out with friends on the street.  

The Bowens chose the community as their post-military home because of its good schools, small-town feel, and proximity to big-city medical services. It places them between James’s family in Florida and Karen’s in Missouri. 

“I don’t know what sparked me to look at Operation Homefront once we moved here,” she said. “I couldn’t believe there was a house available in Zachary and so close we could see it from the house we were renting,” she said.  

The Bowens became familiar with Operation Homefront and its mission to keep military and veteran families strong, stable, and secure through the nonprofit’s Critical Financial Assistance (CFA) program. James and Karen received approval for CFA help in 2019 when they faced food insecurity as medical bills strained the family budget. 

“With (the Transitional Homes for Veterans program), we will be able to get back on our feet and enjoy post-service life.” – Retired Navy Petty Officer 1st Class, James Bowen

James said he and Karen have struggled with finances throughout their 15-year marriage. Most recently, expenses have mounted with a steady stream of medical co-pays.

“I knew when I retired we would have medical coverage, but I didn’t realize how much the co-pays would add up,” he said 

Two of the Bowens’ children see therapists for autism and ADHD, and one is undergoing treatment for a mood disorder. Karen is under medical care for recurrent pulmonary embolisms and has two or three doctor visits each week.  

“In three months, we spent $3,500 on minor co-pays,” he said.  

They currently rely on one income and James’s retirement as Karen stays home to get their son and two daughters – ages 12, 9, and 5 –established in their new community. She hopes to find a work-from-home job. 

The family is making do with one vehicle until the family budget can accommodate a major car repair. Karen wakes up at 4 a.m. to get James to work and the children to school before going to medical appointments and then picking up her family.  

It wasn’t how they envisioned civilian life, Karen said. 

James started his military career immediately after high school and followed a family tradition of service. His father served 20 years in the Marines, and his mother worked as a swim instructor, among other jobs, in the Navy and Air Force. His grandfather was a B-17 pilot. 

During his service, James worked as a nuclear electrician and earned the rank of petty officer first class. He was awarded a Navy and Marines Commendation Medal for his work on the first-responders team after the nuclear plant disaster in Fukushima, Japan. The monthlong deployment to Japan came when their son was an infant. He also was deployed to the Indian Ocean and twice to the Persian Gulf.  

Now, the family is grateful to be together and to work toward financial stability thanks to Operation Homefront and its donors.  

“It’s amazing to know there is a program out there that can help people like us,” James said. “With this, we will be able to get back on our feet and enjoy post-service life.” 

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