Group Helps Military Families in Crisis

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2007 - Operation Homefront takes its mission of caring for deployed servicemembers, the families they leave behind, and wounded troops very seriously.

"Our primary focus is providing emergency assistance to military families and wounded warriors," Meredith Leyva, Operation Homefront's founder, said. "Most of military families live far from home and we aren't rich, so when a crisis comes up, it can send a family into a tailspin."

That tailspin at home can have ripple effects overseas. "It can distract a servicemember from the dangerous task at hand," she said.

Operation Homefront is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with members of the military and their families at home and abroad.

The group, which got its start after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, offers emergency funding to help cover rent, utilities and everyday expenses, with some exceptions. Goods and services, such as food, baby care items, and vehicle and appliance repair, also are offered.

In addition, Operation Homefront provides many programs that boost the morale and quality of life for wounded troops, deployed servicemembers and families on the home front, Leyva said. That includes providing assistance with moving, donating certain appliances, hosting community events, and donating computers and digital cameras to help keep families in touch with deployed servicemembers.

Most importantly, however, the group provides military families with a community. "," which Leyva started in 1999, is a supportive online community for military wives, families, girlfriends and women in uniform.

These efforts led the popular Internet community Yahoo to include as one of the 100 most important things to happen to the Internet in the last decade as part of Yahoo's 10th anniversary Netrospective in 2005.

Leyva said the group's America Supports You membership has helped the group better help military families.

"Very frankly, without America Supports You, we would not be able to generate all the donations needed to keep up with the demand for emergency assistance by military families," she said. "(It) has been invaluable in raising awareness, in partnering valued charities with individuals and businesses who want to support the troops."

One of those partnerships linked Operation Homefront and the Maid Brigade cleaning company, which, through Leyva's group, is providing emergency cleaning services to military families. A pregnant Army wife with a 3-year-old daughter recently used those services in Dallas. The woman's husband was a soldier recuperating from injuries caused by a bomb blast. He was being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, and the mom and daughter wanted to relocate to be nearer to him.

"She obviously couldn't move herself, so we helped take care of the moving, and Maid Brigade did the cleaning," Leyva said. "It's an incredibly invaluable service to a family that is already going through so much stress."

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