Military families get rest and relaxation | News
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - Through Operation R&R - Military families from Ft. Stewart, Hunter Army Airfield and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort that have deployed overseas get to vacation on Hilton Head Island with a free stay at beach homes, condos and now the Westin Resort and Spa.
They even get significant discounts at dozens of local restaurants and businesses on the island as a thank you for their service.
Relaxing and just getting away is something, 1st Sgt. Gene O'Day and his wife Patty have been hoping for and thanks to Operation R&R they got that opportunity here at the Westin on Hilton Head Island.
"This has been wonderful for us," said Patty. "This was our 25th Wedding Anniversary and also my Birthday and we had a chance to take a break from our responsibilities, enjoy each other and reconnect in a really beautiful setting."
1st Sgt. O'Day serves at Hunter Army Airfield and over the years has deployed six times.
"This allows me really to get back in civilian life again and feel I'm still a part of what I'm fighting for, something you lose track of," said 1st sgt. O'Day.
Grant and Mia Evans started the Operation after watching soldiers deploy from the airport.
"It just made us feel so sad that they had to leave their families and I said Grant there is something we have to do," said Mia Evans.
"I said why don't we bring up a few families and put them in our condo for free," said Grant. "That first year in 2008 we got our management company on board and we got 60 owners that offered up free use of their condo."
Now it's up to 400 and just recently the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa jumped on board, offering up 125 rooms to military families like the O'Day's who can only stay for a few days.
"Being a First Sergeant it's hard for me to get away from work and my wife is working also so the weekend is the only exclusive time we have for off-time so this has been a fabulous thing that the Westin has allowed us to take this three day weekend," said O'Day.
"It seemed like a natural opportunity to give back and to really show that we care about our military," said Andrew Czarnecki, The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa, General Manager.
For the O'Day's it's an experience, they won't soon forget.
"Everybody has just treated us like royalty, it's been beautiful," said Patty.
Grant Evans is working to expand Operation R&R to other resort destinations in the nation to allow more military families to have this opportunity.
To make an online donation to Operation R & R visit www.cf-lowcountry.org. Select Donate Online then choose Operation R&R fromt he drop down menu.
You can also send a check made out to the Community Foundation of the Lowcounty and send it to:
Community Foundation of the Lowcountry
P.O Box 23019
Hilton Head Island, SC 29925-3019
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