“Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays…”
For many lower enlisted service members, the possibility of going home during the holiday season is fraught with anxiety about the cost.
The Fort Bragg Armed Services YMCA aims to help alleviate some of this stress with the 7th Annual Jack Daniel’s Operation Ride Home.
The program is open to both single and married service members who are traveling either alone or with dependents and do not have the financial means to travel home for the holidays, according to Lisa Kotson, event coordinator, Fort Bragg ASYMCA. She said this program is important for the Fort Bragg community.
“I think that everyone should have the opportunity to go home for Christmas, with deployments and being taken away from their Families and the hardship of getting to go see Family,” she explained.
Last year, the Fort Bragg ASYMCA was able to send 258 Soldiers home for the holidays, and Kotson said they will accept applications for this year’s travel through the end of November.
If a Family or service member applies for financial assistance to drive home, the destination must be at least 350 miles (one way) from the installation.
Additionally, Families are able to apply for Operation Ride Home if their service member is deployed as long as the Soldier meets all other requirements.
If selected, those traveling by plane will receive $400 per traveler towards the cost of the flight.
If the flight is less than $400, participants will receive the total cost of the flight only. Service members and their Families traveling by car will receive $100 for each traveler over the age of two, Kotson said.
If travel costs exceed the stipend amount, service members will need to pay the difference, and Operation Ride Home will collect billing information up front to pay for these costs.
Participants do not receive cash as part of the program — Operation Ride Home books flights and provides prepaid debit cards to travelers.
Those interested in applying for the program should visit www.asymca.org/operation-ride-home or at the Fort Bragg ASYMCA office at Building 2-2411 Rodney Trail.
All applications must be signed by the service member’s commander.
Applications are prioritized by need, and if chosen, the Fort Bragg ASYMCA will reach out to the service member and/or Family to coordinate all travel.
The office will book all flights no later than Dec. 4, and will distribute prepaid debit cards for car travel no later than Dec. 11.
For more information on the program, visit www.asymca.org/operation-ride-home.