Serving Servicemembers’ children to start the school year

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tyler Bolken
  • 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The start of the 2020 school year is unlike one students, teachers, and parents have ever encountered before. School supplies and school shopping has taken on a completely new meaning, with most first days happening in living rooms through virtually learning.

I am a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force Reserve with the 944th Fighter Wing. I have two school-age sons, 8th and 4th grade, and have felt these new homeschooling responsibilities first hand. The updates from schools and teachers have almost been daily, really keeping us on our toes.

To help service members bridge this gap in unchartered waters the non-profit organization, Operation Homefront, hosted an event, Back to School Brigade, to give away school supplies to the children of service members and veterans at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 1, 2020.

“I can’t think of a better way to show my gratitude to the servicemembers and their families than to be able to do events like this,” said Michelle Hagge, a program manager for Operation Homefront, and spouse of a retired Navy veteran.

Hagge said that Operation Homefront hosts 70 of these back-to-school events nationwide. The event at Luke was COVID-19 aware with a drive-up service, where supply recipients signed in with their registration, popped their trunks, and received one backpack of school supplies.

Being a drive-up service was extremely helpful and appreciated from a COVID-19 standpoint, but for myself and fellow Arizonans, staying inside our air-conditioned vehicle may have been the best perk, in addition to the lunch handed out by staff from the Phoenix Suns.

Weathering the triple digit heat, more than 30 volunteers assisted with the event. Volunteers were made up of active duty and Reserve service members, veterans, and family members.

“Having support like this would have meant so much to me as a young spouse,” said Hagge. “Providing that assistance to service members is what drives me to continue doing this.”

Although my sons and I didn’t experience the normal back-to-school shopping fun and frenzy, my boys were still pumped to see me come home with full backpacks to gear up for the new school year.

Operation Homefront does events throughout the year to support and serve America’s military families. For more information, visit