Barbara Mills welcomed home her son from his tours in Iraq in 2007. “He never gave me the details but I somehow knew that the places he’d been, the things he’d done and seen were all nightmares. And then he came home to little Inverness, Florida, and no one had any idea of what he’d been through. How could they? It was just like the WW II and Korean War vets who came home. They never said anything. Nobody else did either. They just carried on with their lives.
“Well, I didn’t want that to be how my son came home. I wanted to give him a big, public pat on the back. He deserved it for all his sacrifice; he deserved a formal ‘welcome home.'”
Not only did Barbara Mills give her son a formal welcome home by creating a party honoring her son and inviting her entire community of friends and family to do the same, Mills created Operation Welcome Home, a 501(C)3 nonprofit organization that welcomes home veterans who have earned the Global War on Terror Medal with a party in and gifts from the community of Citrus Heights, Florida.
In the last ten years, Mills, a long time agent with ReMax, has honored Citrus Heights veterans from all units of the Armed Forces with welcome home parties and gift baskets totaling an average of $500. to honor their service. “When my son came home, I got the names of seven men who were local vets and they came to his party, ” said Mills. “Today, now more than 400 parties later, we often have so many people wanting to come to honor the returning vet that we have to have two parties so everyone who wants to honor that one kid can.”
Mills, known as the “town beggar” because she’s always asking people to donate gift certificates and checks to give to the returning vet in each “welcome home” basket and food and drink for the party, “…loves putting a smile on these guys’ faces…loves watching their parents burst with tears of pride for their kids…” She considers Operation Welcome Home the best thing she’s ever done in her life and “…wouldn’t change a thing about it. If it has anything to do with helping vets, I’m there,” says Mills.
Everyone in Citrus Heights knows Operation Welcome Home as they know Barbara Mills. She brings the same commodities of integrity, passion, commitment, and advocacy to her clients in her real estate business as she brings to local returning veterans.
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