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holiday meals for military event

Family Story

Veteran Family Shares Holiday Bounty with Soldiers

By Operation Homefront

December 18, 2023

Veteran Family Shares Holiday Meals for Military Bounty with Soldiers

For Sandy Muñoz, each year’s advance holiday planning includes signing up for Operation Homefront’s Holiday Meals for Military® program. The extra food helps when she and her husband, Army veteran Luis Muñoz, open their El Paso, Texas, home to an extended family of soldiers from nearby Fort Bliss who join their relatives and friends for dinner, conversation, and fun.

“I have a big family, and I cook a lot,” Sandy said. Last year’s Christmas crowd numbered about 60 people, with guests coming in and out. “They love my cooking, so they always come.”

Sandy and Luis have a blended family of seven children, ranging in age from 8 to 26. Their three youngest daughters and one son live at home.

Last year, her Holiday Meals for Military (HMFM) bag included a turkey, stuffing mix, green beans, gravy mix, corn, yams, and a Walmart gift card, which she used to purchase a ham.

“The food helps so much,” she said. “And it can also help single soldiers who can’t afford to go home. They can have a warm meal to eat and have fun for the day.” – Sandy Muñoz, Army spouse

Operation Homefront understands how added expenses during the holiday season can be challenging for military families. This year, food costs have climbed almost 6 percent, continuing an inflationary trend that is straining family budgets.

Thanks to its generous donors, Operation Homefront has provided more than 680,000 individual holiday meals to service members, veterans, and their families since the HMFM program began in 2010.

Cooking for a crowd takes time, and Sandy starts work on the feast about four days in advance. Cheesecakes and other desserts come first, and the turkey, ham and sides go in the oven on the big day.

The Muñoz family learned about the holiday meal program in 2014 from Luis’s unit commander. The couple had married in 2012 and moved to El Paso in 2013 for his assignment to Fort Bliss. Sandy has followed Operation Homefront since 2014, and the family has participated in other Family Support programs such as Holiday Toy Drives and Back-to-School Brigade® backpack delivery.

Luis served in the Army for 13 years. He worked as a tanker and was deployed to Afghanistan and South Korea. He was medically retired in 2022 after undergoing surgery for service-related injuries to his back.

After training as a diesel mechanic, Luis works with the same unit at Fort Bliss but now as a contractor. Sandy works in medical claims and recently completed a cosmetology course at El Paso Community College as she advances toward the goal of opening her own salon.

Even with being a busy mom with a full-time job, though, she finds time to prepare a holiday feast her family can share with others.

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