Christmas came early this year for U.S. Army Specialist Jonathan Crespo, his wife, Jennifer, and their three children, when they were informed that they would be receiving a mortgage-free home in Orlando thanks Operation Homefront, a Birdies for the Brave military homefront group as well as Chase.
Crespo was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New Jersey where, as a high school student, he witnessed the attacks of 9/11. The attacks had a profound effect on Crespo, leading him to enlist in the Army to defend his country. As a cargo specialist, Jonathan was responsible for transferring and supervising passengers, cargo, and equipment to and from air, land, and water. He was deployed to Iraq in 2010, and was honorably discharged in 2012. Still committed to serving his country, he re-enlisted in the Army National Guard, completing his term this past May. He subsequently re-enlisted for one more year.
Since moving to Orlando near his duty station, Crespo and his family have moved from apartment to apartment five times due to financial constraints. He was referred to Operation Homefront by a fellow National Guard member, and was floored to learn that he would finally be able to provide some stability for his family and save up for his children’s future through the home donation.
“Receiving this home means everything to me and my family,” said Crespo. “I am in shock – this home will change our lives in so many amazing ways. It will help me financially and help relieve a lot of my stress, allowing me to put money into savings. From the bottom of my heart, I am deeply grateful.”
Crespo plans to re-enlist in the Army Reserves and try to retire. In the meantime, he works full-time at Disney and enjoys working for the company. He also plans to transfer his GI Bill to his daughter so she won’t have to worry about paying tuition. He looks forward to spending more quality time with his family and seeing his family grow old in their new home.
Operation Homefront also helped bring joy to thousands of military families around the country through its Holiday Toy Drive and Holiday Meals for Military programs. Operation Homefront’s Holiday Toy Drive program brings the joy of the holiday season to military kids across the U.S. in partnership with Dollar Tree. For eight straight years, Dollar Tree has placed toy collection bins at nearly 5,000 stores. In 2014, thanks to Dollar Tree patrons and corporate donors, Operation Homefront was able to deliver holiday joy at more than 70 locations to more than 26,000 military children. The toys go a long way toward helping military members provide gifts for their children. Long tours of duty, frequent deployments and relocations often cause military families to face financial hardships, and often must forego spending money on gifts.
Such was the case for Chana Harper, whose husband’s military relocation and deployment meant she did not have money for Christmas gifts for her three children. Through the generosity of Operation Homefront and Dollar Tree, her children awoke to an unexpected bounty of gifts under the tree – which Chana calls magical. “They were so excited and grateful to actually have presents,” she said. “We feel truly blessed and are so appreciative to Operation Homefront.
Operation Homefront’s Holiday Meals for Military began with a spontaneous act of kindness in 2009 right before Thanksgiving. An employee of Beam Suntory encountered a soldier, his wife, and their infant in a grocery store near Fort Drum, New York who were unable to pay for the groceries they had selected. The Beam employee stepped in and covered the cost. From that act of appreciation from a grateful civilian, the Holiday Meals for Military program was born. Through cash, food and service donations as well as fundraising event proceeds, Operation Homefront distributed 8,000 holiday meal kits at 21 locations in 2014 – providing military families facing financial burdens with healthy fixings for a holiday meal.
For more information regarding Operation Homefront’s 2015 holiday activities and to learn how you can help bring joy to those who sacrifice so much in service to our country, please visit Operationhomefront.net.