Sunday, December 28, 2014

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Homeowners open their homes to returning soldiers

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TWC News: Homeowners open their homes to returning soldiers
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Some Austin residents are answering the call to thank service members and their families.

Through the program Operation R&R homeowners make their rental properties available for free to troops recently back home from deployment.

It offers participants like the Neuman family, a chance to make up for lost time.

"They're gone for a whole year. They're gone throughout the year even whenever they are home—schools and camps and whatever it might be, so a week away for us to just be as a family to reconnect, there's no way of expressing how grateful we are,” LaRessa Neuman said.

Sergeant Chad Neuman deployed out of Camp Mabry and returned from Iraq just last year.

"People leave their home for a week or two to go on business trips or whatever. But when you leave your home for a year, and family, especially when you have children and a wife, and they're not accustomed to that, it becomes very hard," he said.

But on this weekend, thanks to an Austin affiliate of the national nonprofit program Operation R&R, they're able to make up for some of that lost time.

"The idea is to give them some of that rest and relaxation to be able to reunite the family and strengthen the relationship," Mitchell Kent said.

The group matches rental property owners with military families for a carefree cost-free stay.

"You get a little emotional you know. It's a tear-jerker thing,” Kent said. “I've got five children and I can't imagine being away from them for 6 to 12 months."

Organizers say the Austin-based company Home Away is one of their sponsors, but they're looking for more businesses and volunteers to help.

The nonprofit is based in South Carolina, but an Austin affiliate was started up more than a year ago. So far, five property owners are taking part.

They're seeking more service members and families who would like to participate.

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