06/25/2014 12:00AM ● Published by Claudia Mosby
Photos: Betsy Erickson
Homeward Bound - Serving Those Who Served
After two combat tours in Iraq, Senior Chief Rob Burroughs led his unit safely out of the Gulf, but knew others from Operation Iraqi Freedom who were not as fortunate. Having been given a second chance, he has made it his mission through Homeward Bound Family Support Services to assist post-9-11 veterans within Shasta County.
“No one tells us where to go for help when we return home,” says Burroughs. “Some veterans are calling national organizations to find assistance in Shasta County. Due to base closures, the nearest place (non-disabled) veterans can go for services is Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield, which means they must travel almost 200 miles.”
Additionally, Burroughs says that money sent to many national organizations does not funnel back to the local community because so many on the list need assistance.
He had a better idea. Inspired by a poem-turned-song called “Homeward Bound” (see excerpt on page 42) he penned after returning from his second tour in Iraq, he created a local organization to assist veterans falling through the gaps in federally funded services.
A sub-organization of the Northern California Veterans Museum & Heritage Center, also founded by Burroughs, Homeward Bound provides emergency financial, educational, nutritional and other assistance to these personnel, their families and returning and injured warriors.
“When veterans feel hopeless, suicide is more likely,” says Burroughs. “We have had more death by suicide among our veterans since 9-11 than from combat fatalities. We’re talking over 5,000. The program was established to help these younger troops who are trying to get their lives together and make their families work.“
Financial assistance covers rent and utilities, groceries, emergency home and automobile repairs, and critical baby items like food and diapers. Moving, mental health and employment assistance are also available.
The organization either issues a voucher or pays the bill directly.
“We have paid bus fares, had veterans move into the area who are between jobs and we have helped them with rent and groceries,” says Burroughs. “These folks would not have anything if not for the services we provide,” services enabled by generous support from local businesses and organizations.
“Jersey Mike’s Subs and North Valley Bank have given us grants,” says Burroughs. “Redding Yamaha and Hild Collision Center sponsored a motorcycle ride, gathered donations and both businesses provided cash donations.”
At Christmas, Coldwell Banker C&C Properties sponsored families and the Redding Senior Center donated handmade children’s blankets, which were distributed in Christmas care packages. Many individual donors also contribute.
July 6 marks the organization’s one-year anniversary and since going live online last year, Burroughs says it has helped more than 60 families at a cost of about $20,000.
Since May, Homeward Bound has been housed with the Northern California Veteran’s Museum & Heritage Center inside the new Eagles Landing, a retail store providing military apparel and uniforms for National Guard and Reserves. Burroughs created the store to host the museum and Homeward Bound offices, all of which use volunteer labor.
“One hundred percent of what we take in goes back to our veterans,” he says. “We did everything we could to save their lives over there. We should be doing everything we can to save their lives here.”
Homeward Bound (An Excerpt)
By Senior Chief Rob Burroughs
In the quiet dusty morning when the moon has bowed its head
When the Blackhawks stop their singing and the sky is clear of red
When the desert seizes gleaming and deployment’s past its prime
When adventure’s lost its meaning, I’ll be Homeward Bound this time…
Send me not on convoy missions, force me not to shoot once more
Set me free to find my calling and I’ll return to home for sure,
In the quiet dusty morning, when the moon has bowed its head
Then the Blackhawks they’ll stop singing, and I’ll be Homeward Bound again.
3300 Bechelli Lane, Suite C, Redding
Hours: 10 am – 6 pm Tuesday through Saturday
National Guard members, reservists and retired veterans also qualify for services. Applicants for assistance must show a DD-214 proof of service or active duty ID card.