Operation Homefront helps Valley military family recover - CBS 5 - KPHO

Operation Homefront helps Valley military family with financial hardship

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All week CBS-5 News has highlighted the needs and challenges of our military hometown heroes.

It's part of our CBS-5 Pay It Forward campaign to help those who've sacrificed for our freedom.

We've partnered with Operation Homefront Arizona to support our local servicemen and women and their families.

Leslie Strickland never thought she'd ever have to worry about putting food on the table, then her husband, Jon Strickland, got deployed to Iraq.

"We weren't expecting the deployment, it's always there in the back of your mind but you never expect it," said Leslie.

Not only did his year-long call up as a reservist come as a surprise, so did baby Ryley six weeks early in the NICU.

"There's seven kids, so there's sports, and there's gas which is now creeping back up to what it was at that time," said Leslie. "Oh, and it was our first year in Arizona with a pool and air conditioning so we got the sticker shock of the utility bill."

Her husband took a pay cut, leaving his job as a Valley police officer to work military police patrols in Tikrit.

"The thing about being the family of first responders and military and police or fire - anybody who works in that capacity or the families that are left behind is you don't ask for help, we take care of each other," said Leslie.

But the 30-day gap of waiting for his military pay to pick up where his civilian checks left off left them short by a lot. So, Leslie called up Operation Homefront Arizona.

"She paid our mortgage for the month and she took care of the car payment and asked, 'What else can I do for you?' I'm looking at this woman with my jaw on the floor going, 'Are you kidding me?'" said Leslie.

That's just the mission of Operation Homefront Arizona answering the crisis calls of families of our hometown heroes, making sure their loved ones they leave behind here are taken care of.

"If you're the person who leaves, how are you supposed to fight a war or put yourself in that capacity if you have to worry about your loved ones back home who can't pay the utilities, who can't pay the rent, who can't make the car payment, who are in fear of losing their home and they don't have what they need in order to survive," Leslie said. "How are you supposed to keep your mindset in the game and stay alive?"

Her husband is getting ready for his second deployment, this time to Afghanistan.

The Stricklands know the sacrifice takes its toll on the whole family and they are so thankful there are people out there who recognize it, too.

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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