Photo: [Juan in the foreground, Jenny far left] Thanksgiving Day 2020, first time the family was able to touch, hug, and be in the same room with each other since they contracted COVID-19.

“It was so great working with [HFMN Case Manager]. She was so detailed and patient–with a calming voice. She would tell us ‘this is what I’m going to do, and this is what you need to do’…We’re a large family of six with three big boys who eat a lot. Thank you so much, it’s just so wonderful that you guys helped us. We are so blessed.”

Juan, U.S. Army Veteran

Juan is a U.S. Army veteran, having served in the wake of Desert Storm. Like many young people, he joined the military to serve his country, see the world, and have an adventure. What he found during his service was a strong sense of comradery.

Coming from a large family, Juan loved “The family atmosphere. Where you take care of the person on your right and your left. Just being a part of that brotherhood, that melting pot of the United States, where you were all different and being okay with that.”

Juan and Jenny (his spouse) have a large family of their own, and so when Juan contracted COVID-19, even with self-quarantining, the rest of the family soon fell ill. “We were slowly getting backed up on bills that needed to be paid. And when you get behind like that, you think about it constantly, there’s a constant pressure.”

“Juan is the only one who works,” Jenny adds, “we all depend on Dad.”

Jenny has some health concerns, and both Juan and one of their sons need a CPAP machine at night. Including their recovery from COVID, when the family learned that they were in danger of having their water and electricity shut-off–they felt overwhelmed and “like you can’t breathe.”

Jenny called our partners at Pikes Peak United Way, and they referred her to Home Front Military Network. Our case managers then determined that the family was eligible for our emergency financial assistance program.

Jenny says, “It was so great working with [HFMN Case Manager]. She was so detailed and patient–with a calming voice. She would tell us ‘this is what I’m going to do, and this is what you need to do.’ When I got overwhelmed with the paperwork, she was so patient. She just kept reaching out, she didn’t give up, she had faith. It was wonderful.”

Juan and Jenny’s family were able to receive rental and utilities assistance. When they got the call from their case manager announcing the good news, Juan says “all of a sudden you get that breath back and it feels so good. So much weight was taken off. It felt like we were finally able to breathe again.”

Juan and Jenny also received a gift card to King Soopers for groceries and supplies. “We’re a large family of six with three big boys who eat a lot. Thank you so much, it’s just so wonderful that you guys helped us. We are so blessed,” Jenny says.

Today, Juan and Jenny feel like “we’re starting off on a clean slate. And [HFMN Case Manager] is still keeping in touch with us with helpful services and resources for other needs of ours.”

When asked what advice they would give to another military or veteran family in crisis, Juan says, “Don’t feel bad and don’t be embarrassed. Just remember that comradery. If your buddy needed help, you’d be there for them too.”

Tim, U.S. Army Veteran

Tim, a young veteran, served active duty for both the U.S. Army and National Guard. His military experienced taught him discipline, punctuality, and most importantly what it means to be a leader.

Tim currently works as a general contractor—supervising remodeling, building, and renovation projects. However, like so many others, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Tim in ways he did not foresee.

As the number of COVID cases started rising across Colorado, Tim saw an increase in cancellations for the work projects he and his family depend on. “COVID came and took over our world,” Tim laments, “No work, no money, more bills.”

Though it was a difficult decision for Tim, a man who’s used to people asking him for help, Tim knew he had to do something to keep his family from becoming homeless.

That’s when he reached out to Home Front Military Network and our case management team.

“It was instant bliss. [HFMN Case Manager] was very helpful. Giving me resources that I didn’t even ask for, ones that she knew I needed or might need. She went above and beyond what she had to do and she never made me feel bad about asking for help. She was just amazing, made me feel really comfortable. She genuinely cared.”

Tim was eligible for HFMN’s financial assistance program and received 2 months of rental assistance.

“It was an instant relief because we were on the verge of being evicted,” Tim adds. “Having a three-year-old daughter, I can’t be homeless. It is not an option. So it was great news, and [the case manager] sounded just as excited as we were.”

Today, Tim’s a lot more optimistic for the future, “Work’s picked up a lot. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to cover what I was behind with. With you guys paying that, I was able to save a little should anything happen.”

When asked what encouragement or advice he would give to other military members or veterans in need, Tim offers this, “Don’t be so damn stubborn. Swallow your pride. Even the toughest of us need help once in a while.”

Channelle, U.S. Army Veteran

Channelle is a United States Army Veteran who reached out to Home Front Military Network (HFMN) not knowing what kind of assistance she needed but knew she was in need of guidance.

“I wasn’t sure if you [HFMN] could even help me. I saw Home Front Military Network [on a magnet], and I didn’t really know, but maybe they can refer me to someone because I wasn’t deployed. I was in a long time ago. I don’t even know if they can help me or if it applies to me, but at this point I was desperate. I didn’t know who else to call. It was one of those things where I knew I had to do something and I am really glad I did.”

Channelle spoke with Christian Nunez, HFMN Generalist Navigator, and military veteran.  She told him she didn’t know what she needed or wanted, “but, in the course of one call, Christian was able to unscramble my thoughts, provide great contacts.”

Channelle joined the military in 2003 right after high school, “I wanted to go over and fight after 9/11. I wanted to go and serve my country.” She went to sign up.  She opted to be a Linguist, which meant two years of advanced individual training (AIT) to learn Arabic. “It was during that time that I developed medical issues. So then I went to the next base and had more medical issues, so I never even made it out of AIT. That was really frustrating because I saw all my friends go out and get deployed. Some of them were deployed around the world and were assigned to Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs), some of them were deployed to combat areas, and some of them did not come back. It was tough for the first couple of years. It’s the guilt thing that every soldier deals with, survivor’s guilt.”

Channelle was eventually medically separated from the service, with the help from a supportive company commander in 2006. She is now in a time of her life where she is able to focus on her health and wants to start a career. “I want a career, I can have a career, and I’ve been pushing for a career, so now is the time to figure out what is going on. I got ahold of him (Christian from HFMN), and I told him I don’t know what to do. I need help. I’m confused. I’m lost. I don’t even know what I’m looking for”.

Channelle saw our magnet during a time when she wasn’t receiving the help that she was seeking, “I grabbed the magnet, and I’m like ‘I just need help!'” (She said through tears). “All of the contacts he gave me were spot on. A lot of them in ways that were not expected, but I trusted him and relied on what he said. It worked. If you’re going to go get help, you just do what they say. You have to trust them because they know what they are doing”.

“It doesn’t matter how long it’s been. It doesn’t matter your situation. It’s a perfect starting place because you guys know so many people and so many places and resources, and even if you guys can’t help, you know someone who will.”

“It’s just frustrating to hear veterans say that it doesn’t mean anything to be a veteran and that no one cares, because I know people do. You just have to figure out how to get ahold of people for them to know that you need the help. And that’s kind of what I did with Christian, and he helped me figure out how to get the help. Now, I feel like I have a team of people to help me. My network is building because I made that phone call”.

Sally, Mother of Iraq Veteran

Sally is the mother of Michael, an Army Veteran who served in Iraq between 2006 and 2008. Michael suffers from a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress after being involved in explosions in Iraq and watching fellow Soldiers die on the battlefield. Michael also lost a brother, who took his own life at age 14, so he experienced a great deal of trauma from an early age. He was eventually medically retired from the Army and returned to his family in Michigan. He came back to Colorado Springs in 2015, but he still suffered from his invisible wounds, self-medicating, adding substance abuse to his challenges. He was arrested in 2016, facing felony charges stemming from his addiction.  Sally got a call from Michael from jail in May 2016. However, he bonded out of jail and she was not able to reach him. 

Sally, living in Michigan, knew her son was in trouble and feared for his health and safety, and didn’t know how to get help for his legal challenges. She didn’t want to lose another son. Sally didn’t have any connections in Colorado Springs, but knew that her local television news anchor, Stephen Clark, WXYZ TV Detroit, did have a Colorado Springs connection. She reached out via Facebook message, not really expecting a quick or any response.  However, Stephen responded right away and reached out to his father, Major General Wes Clark (USAF, Retired), who serves on the Board of Directors of the Home Front Military Network (HFMN). Wes reached out to HFMN staff and a former HFMN Board member, Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey. Sally’s one Facebook message opened up a network of local support that changed her and Michael’s course.  After reaching out to Stephen, people from Colorado Springs “reached out to me before I even had a chance to call anyone else.” Within a very short period of time, HFMN reached out to CSPD and Leo Martinez, Lead Peer Mentor for the Veteran Trauma Court, and all (and others) connected with her to provide support and help her son.

The collaborative network of military and veteran support agencies that HFMN coordinates showed Sally that help was available for her son – and her. “Many people worked behind the scenes to help Michael,” she says. While Michael was not accepted into the Veteran Trauma/Treatment Court program, many, many individuals advocated for him. And Michael helped himself – and his fellow veterans.

While in the veterans’ ward of the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center (CJC), Michael realized that he wasn’t alone and that he could help fellow veterans.  “Michael never gives up…he told me, ‘maybe I’m here for a reason.’” Sally explains that Michael has helped transform the CJC, starting a peer support program, helping other veterans talk about their struggles with invisible wounds and the addictions that led many to the jail, facing DUIs and more serious charges. This work in helping veterans has become a calling for Michael – he has found a new mission. He felt so compelled to help not only those in the El Paso County CJC, but all veterans who are incarcerated.  With the help of CJC staff, Lead Peer Mentor Leo and fellow veterans, Michael, on the anniversary of his brother’s suicide, led veterans and CJC staff in the 22 Pushup Challenge to raise awareness and help end veteran suicides.

With this new mission and many military leaders and fellow Soldiers advocating for him in his legal case, in December 2016, Michael received probation. He has been sober since August of 2016 and is receiving services through the Colorado Springs VA Clinic for substance abuse and living in the Crawford House, a private, non-profit veterans’ residential treatment facility run by the Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition.

He told his mother that despite having opportunities to enter programs in other states, he felt compelled to stay in Colorado Springs, where his fellow veterans are, to help them as others helped him. Michael and other veterans who have left the CJC continue to offer peer support, meeting at a local Denny’s and even working with the CJC to arrange for veterans in the jail to still be able to talk to veterans who have been released. “He didn’t go through everything he went through for no reason,” says Sally. “He survived to be able to help others. Michael is so excited about staying involved and helping others. Michael will be a drug addict all his life, but he has a mission now that he never did before.” He is also seeking help for other needs, including his TBI, which he was never able to address while he was self-medicating. “He is excited about doing things in a positive way now.”

Sally wants other family members to know that there is help and not to be ashamed to ask for that help. “Your spouse, son, daughter, family member served our country and there is help out there. The first step is picking up the phone and asking, ‘where do I go for help?’ You don’t have to know what to say or what to ask. Just picking up the phone, you will be amazed at the network of people out there every day and hooking you up with help. The support is life-saving, especially as a parent – you feel like you’re alone. You may feel like you are in a dark tunnel and may be intimidated to make that first call, but if you ask for help, there are so many people to help; they guide you, they give you strength.” Sally also recommends hanging on to that phone number and the resources you collect. You may need help later or others may ask you how to find help. “There is someone out there that has your story – you are not alone. Now other moms reach out to me, and I want to tell them, ‘feel no shame; saving one life is worth it.’ And making sure that people know the help is available – that is what will save someone – knowledge!”

Laureen, U.S. Army Veteran & Steve, U.S. Marine Veteran

Laureen and Steve reached out to Home Front Military Network because they needed help with their utility bill. They are both veterans, Laureen served in the United States Army and Steve served in the United States Marine Corps.

Steve was drafted in November of 1971 and was in force recon in Vietnam. He was discharged in 1975 and is a combat veteran. Steve mentioned he is a very prideful man “and to reach out for help is real hard”. He retired from the workforce early due to physical conditions and is on a fixed income, receiving social security with no other benefits.

Home Front Military Network Resources for Veterans, Service Members, Families

His wife, Laureen is currently job searching. With her Bachelors in social work and started her Masters, she is hoping to continue to network with people she knows in the community to find something to help with the budget. “We were struggling. We had extra family members, we had people who were renting from us who have had trouble paying us and we needed help with our utility bill. Being a veteran and my husband being a veteran, we wanted to come here and see if you guys can help us.” Laureen found out about HFMN through calling 2-1-1.

“I have something that has lifted off my shoulders and I see a light at the end of the tunnel to where I can visualize that things are going to be okay”, said Steve. When asked what he would say to another veteran who may be struggling he mentioned “If they are anything like me they probably wouldn’t ask for help, but if they do then I would have to recommend your organization.”

Laureen expressed that no one should be afraid to ask for help, “I am grateful and blessed that we live in a place here where there are so many different organizations and that you can reach out. A lot of times it’s not just one time that you have to reach out, it’s a couple different times that you have to, to get a sense of stability.”

Steve said he knows that HFMN is a network and so if someone reached out for help, HFMN can find something out there for them; “Reach out and ask for the help. It’s the only way it’s going to work. There is light at the end of the tunnel if you ask for help.”

Home Front Military Network Resources for Veterans, Service Members, Families

“HFMN went out of its way to support my husband, a company commander in charge of a reserve unit in Las Vegas, with resources for his soldiers in need. To date, those resources have helped soldiers in Nevada, Utah and Arizona with critical support for their well-being. I would recommend their services to all military personnel, including those in leadership positions.”

Bridgett, Spouse of Army reservist

HFMN is an amazing organization and it has been extremely helpful in providing critical resources to soldiers in need. Going the extra mile does not even begin to encompass how devoted the folks at HFMN are to our military.

My experience with HFMN actually began with a simple interview request in my capacity as a reporter for a local newspaper. During the interview I mentioned that I wished other states had similar support networks, as my husband was a company commander of a reserve unit in Las Vegas and frequently struggled to find the right help for his soldiers.

Imagine my surprise when the HFMN president, Kate Hatten, emailed me personally not even 24 hours later with resources specific to Las Vegas for my husband! The list she provided was incredibly useful to my husband. He distributed it all the squad leaders in his company and to several soldiers personally. To date, that list has helped soldiers in Utah, Nevada and Arizona find critical resources to help them care for themselves, their families and their extended families. Mrs. Hatten has even emailed me months later with more leads, which is simply amazing and incredibly touching.

As a military wife, I absolutely recommend HFMN for all personnel, including those in leadership positions. It is, hands down, the hardest working, most dedicated organization committed to the support of service members past, present and future.

“HFMN went out of its way to support my husband, a company commander in charge of a reserve unit in Las Vegas, with resources for his soldiers in need. To date, those resources have helped soldiers in Nevada, Utah and Arizona with critical support for their well-being. I would recommend their services to all military personnel, including those in leadership positions.”