— It can be a very difficult time when a military family member deploys. Not only is there worry about the safety of the individual, but back home it can be a challenge to keep everything running smoothly without the assistance and paycheck from the person deployed.
That is why Homefront Connection was formed over a decade ago — to be on hand to assist the family of the region's deployed military members.
"We had some real busy years when our unit was deployed," said Dick Reitsma, board president of Homefront Connection. "We were there to help out any way we could."
The group of volunteers helps military families with yard work, car repairs, replacing appliances, picking up after storms and more. The non-profit group would usually be contacted by the unit when a family needed assistance.
"Just a lot of things these people experienced when their loved ones were gone," Reitsma said.
As the rates of deployment slowed in the latter half of the decade, Homefront Connection turned its attention to another worthy group of people who could sometimes use a helping hand.
"Let's focus on our veterans, see what we can do for them," Reitsma said.
Homefront has stepped up to help veterans with household chores and unexpected expenses, while also sponsoring veterans events such as veterans coffee at the Willmar Community Center and a Let's Go Fishing event for veterans.
This past October, volunteers from Homefront Connection and the Willmar Warhawks hockey team helped clean up the property of a Vietnam veteran who was facing a hefty county fine if the cleanup didn't take place. The volunteers were able to spruce up the area over a single day.
"It just cost us some Subway sandwiches and some time," Reitsma said.
Homefront has also been available to help individual soldiers needing assistance. In one instance, Homefront bought a plane ticket for a solider who wouldn't have been able to attend their father's funeral without the help.
Homefront Connection has a seven-person board, all of whom are veterans themselves. Reitsma said the fact that Homefront is made up of veterans sometimes makes it more comfortable for veterans to accept the assistance. Veterans understand what other veterans might have gone through or are experiencing.
"Things like that help too," Reitsma said.
Requests for veteran assistance usually come to Homefront through a county veterans service office. People can also contact Reitsma at 320-894-8946. Homefront will do what it can to help the veteran, including reaching out to other organizations and businesses. In past instances, Homefront has partnered with area businesses to help a veteran or military family in need.
"When we get a veteran request, we act on it," Reitsma said.
Homefront wouldn't be able to do what it does without the help from the community. Volunteers make it possible to complete projects, while monetary donations allow Homefront to help without having to worry how to pay for it.
"We didn't do it alone. The community helped us," Reitsma said. "We've been privileged to receive a lot of community support."
Reitsma said there are many organizations out there to help veterans and military families, but they can't get to everything. Groups like Homefront Connection helps fill that gap, getting to the little projects that can make a huge difference to a military family or a veteran. Homefront Connection will remain on the front lines, helping veterans, service members and their families keep the home fires burning brightly.
"We are here for them," Reitsma said.