SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — “It is definitely a shock," shared veteran Ryand Menendez. "From one day you are in the uniform, the next day you are out.”
After leaving the military, veterans across the country are faced with having to adjust to a new reality: civilian life.
It is a scary change but with the help of Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that started in San Diego, they are looking to help change that.
Menendez is originally from North Carolina but moved to South California in 2012, and joined Operation Homefront's Villages program in April.
His reason for enlisting came from a moment that shocked the nation.
“I remember September 11th, I was in eighth grade at the time in English class and I remember seeing the planes hit the towers," shared Menendez. "I remember that kind of struck me at the core, changed my life as well as changed most Americans lives.”
Menendez went unto serve in the Marine Corps from 2009 until December of last year, when he medically retired. The decision came after surgeries, countless therapy session, and years of service.
“It is definitely a shocker," Menendez said. "From one day being in the uniform to the next day you are out of the uniform. How do you handle that transition when your family is on the other side of the United States?”
It is a question that Menendez answered with a move to California, and a fresh start with Operation Homefront. The nonprofit was created by three military spouses in San Diego who wanted to provide resources and tools to veterans and their families.
Sarah Adams, the Senior Regional Director for Operation Homefront, explained, “They saw the effects that the sudden and extended deployments the long deployments were having on their fellow military families, and they wanted to do something to help.”
Operation Homefront's mission is dedicated to building strong, stable and secure military families so they can thrive in the communities they protect.
The help the organization provides comes in the form of financial grants, food, household items, education, and housing, like the one Menendez benefits from.
Menendez is part of their Villages program, which gives veterans who are wounded, ill, medically retired or discharged, extra time and support for them and their families to get back into civilian life.
“Operation Homefront really allowed me the opportunity to solely focus on my transition, career wise, financially, everything," said Menendez.
Menendez is one of ten apartment units, that continuously rotate applicants upon their completion of the program.
“When we think of home we think of having that roof over our head, and that sense of security and belonging in the community, and it’s a challenge for our military families to have that," said Adams. "So we really want to build stronger communities by building stronger military families.”
Last year, Adams shared that the San Diego chapter helped more than twenty thousand veterans. Menendez says that with the help and support of Operation Homefront, he knows he is not alone.
“So oftentimes in the military, you focus on the mission, organization, and the institution. When you transition out, for the first time in your career you are really solely just focused on yourself. And that is a really awkward feeling if you are not familiar with that. So Operation Homefront really helps with that mental transition," he expressed. "Now you are the mission.”
The organization was created in the wake of 9/11 as a way to pay it forward to those willing to sacrifice for our protection.
“Seeing all of the military and veteran families who have served us and have been there to answer that call in our nation’s time of need," said Adams. "Now this is a chance for us to be there for them in their time of need.”
Menendez, a single father of three children, is now working towards his masters degree. He also works at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
He says Operation Homefront has given him a reason to look forward.
Yet Menendez said he never forgets why he started.
“Every year around this time we always go to the Cabrillo National Monument, the veterans, Mount Soledad, and we just reflect on the whole entire history," said Menendez. "Because that day hands down changed every Americans life till this day and for generations to come.”
Adams says that Operation Homefront is now preparing for their holiday meal drive and toy drive.