PenFed Stories: Our Military Kids is Changing Lives
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Our Military Kids Changes Lives

July 1, 2021
Video Time: 03:48 | Views: 47
On July 4th, celebrate our independence and the service and sacrifice of our nation’s military children. The non-profit, Our Military Kids, is changing lives nationwide by awarding grants so the children of deployed and injured service members can participate in the extracurricular activities they love. What happened in one military family will leave you reaching for a tissue.
Man, this is going to
taste so good when I'm done.
Isaiah and Ayjah Villarreal
both took cooking classes
to help their mother.
It was such a great opportunity.
And I was just like,
oh my gosh, I get to learn
how to cook for free.
A Marine Corps combat
Veteran and single mom,
Lani Villarreal, returned from Iraq
physically and emotionally shattered.
It's strange to have a mom
that you have to take care of sometimes.
Activities of any kind
were a luxury Lani couldn't afford.
Our Military Kids funded their dreams.
Kind of makes you grow up faster
and they help us feel like kids again.
They gave me that chance, the opportunity
to send my kids somewhere
I never would have.
I would have looked at the price
tag and been like, what?!
No thanks.
And that part hurts.
But it feels good to know
that other people cared.
The family struggled
after Lani's 2003 deployment,
enduring hunger and homelessness.
Isaiah confided in his favorite teacher.
My son would come home
every single day saying, "Mom,
my teacher's so funny just like you.
Do want to meet him?"
What? No.
"Mom my teacher, Mr.
Mehner, he's so cool.
He did this, this and this,
just like you would do." Really, honey?
That's so awesome.
"Do you want to meet him?" What? No.
That went on for months.
Isaiah's nagging paid off.
He convinced his mother to overcome
her intense fear of leaving the house
and go to her first-ever
parent-teacher conference.
But Isaiah was failing
all of his classes.
And I knew nothing about her.
You know, she just wasn't
answering any messages.
Isaiah wasn't doing any work.
So I just assumed that,
you know, she didn't care
and he didn't care.
Isaiah's teacher was furious.
They had called me in my room
saying that she was there.
And I'm like it's about time.
You know, I was like,
about time, I'm going to give this lady
a piece of my mind.
You know she's
not helping her son at all be successful.
So I was
marching into the office,
the angry teacher guy,
and I walk through the door and I saw her
and I forgot my anger.
You know, she's the most
beautiful woman I've ever seen.
You know that feeling
when you just see someone and just just
feels right, when it just clicks?
That's what happened.
Jason Mehner was stunned to discover
what the family had been through.
Not having any heat,
not having electricity,
having to use the fireplace, basically
to keep warm, that kind of stuff,
not having any food.
She would just pass out on the floor
and they would come and have to
bring her out of a catatonic state.
After learning of his background,
Jason nominated Isaiah
for the Courageous Kid Award
presented by Our Military Kids.
The amount of stuff that he did for her
was just it's just insane.
He had to be, you know,
the man of the house.
And at that time,
I think he was 11 or 12.
Not only did Isaiah win,
he earned high marks as a matchmaker.
I know I love my mother and I will do anything
for her to keep her safe.
And now I have assistance.
Jason.
Jason and Lani
were married in May.
Rad, I have a dad now.
This is great.
Mission accomplished.
It's like, oh, it's so satisfying.
So grateful that my kids
have another outlet.
Everybody needs an outlet.
Everybody needs someone to talk to
or how to vent or how to cope.
I wouldn't have been able
to give my kids those tools.
But our military kids did so for that
they pretty much changed my kids' lives.
I'm eternally grateful.
I mean, I just it's so surreal
that I got to do these things.
Good to know there's
good people in the world that still care.
I'm really grateful that I got to do this
and hope other people get to, too.

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