Please Help a Military Family In Need

by heather

Cathy's Shipping Container Home Plan

Cathy's Shipping Container Home Plan

If you’ve spent any amount of time here at The Greenest Dollar then you know I’m close friends with Renaissance Ronin, a fellow blogger and shipping container home builder. Ronin’s heart is about as big as they come, and he’s currently helping build a shipping container home for a wife of a soldier killed in Iraq. And this woman, Cathy, really needs our help.

Here’s the situation…

Cathy’s husband, a Marine, was recently killed in Iraq. And like they always do, the government compensated Cathy with a small check, a letter of condolence, and then kicked her off the base.

Cathy, a full-time mom of three kids, didn’t have a job or a place to live. So, she had to move in with her in-laws, who aren’t that crazy about her.

I can’t even imagine how hard this must be on her. Not only is she has she lost her husband, but her children have lost her father. And, she’s living with people who don’t want her there, and are slowly making her life much harder than it should be.

Well, Ronin (an ex-military man himself) heard of Cathy’s situation and went into full scale “Help” mode. He’s already secured her five acres of land, and gave her several of his own shipping containers to use in her build. He’s contacted companies who are donating all the appliances she’ll need (refrigerator, washer/dryer, etc.), and several people have volunteered their time to help with the build.

What We Need To Do…

Ronin has already drawn up plans for Cathy’s home, which you can see above. It’s not a huge house by any means…all told it’s about 1400 square feet.

The problem is that Cathy really needs money to help get her build started. Ronin and Cathy still need things like electrical wiring, plumbing, drywall, flooring…and they simply don’t have the money to get that stuff right now. Until Ronin can raise a bit of cash, the build can’t get started.

So, I’m asking all of you to please pitch in to help get Cathy’s house built!

Even if all you can send is $5 or $10, it’s going to add up. Families like Cathy’s slip through the cracks all the time, and right now we’re all in a position to really help her in her time of need.

To donate, head over to Ronin’s site. You’ll see a Paypal “Make A Donation” button on the right hand side of his site. In the memo box, put that it’s for “Cathy’s Casa”, or some other note to let him know it’s for Cathy’s project.

You can also read Ronin’s post about Cathy’s situation here. Ronin’s articles are pretty long, and he starts talking about Cathy’s situation about halfway down, a few paragraphs under the tree house picture.

Can You Donate Materials?

If you’re in the position to donate materials like flooring, electrical wiring, plumbing, etc., please contact Ronin through his site. They desperately need help and materials right now, and anything would be appreciated!

I believe that this kind of giving, when it’s person to person, is the most gratifying of all. You’re truly helping lift someone out of the darkness when it’s so personal like this. Thank you so much for whatever you can give.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

RenaissanceRonin January 22, 2010 at 10:48 am

Hi Heather,

Thanks for helping me spread the word, about this family’s plight.

And yeah, I guess I have to plead guilty about being “long-winded” Mom used to say that I was “in love with the sound of my own voice”, but I used to counter that I just wanted the word to hear “common sense! 😉

Now I know when I comment here usually, I tease you or “crack wise” but this time, it’s no laughing matter. This little family needs our help.

I’ve written another, more direct post about this family and our project, and you can find it here:

Many of us are having a tough time right now, but this family is suffering for all the wrong reasons, and they desperately need (and deserve) our help.

It isn’t about the war, or politics, or even the economy. It’s about kids who lost their daddy. And a mom who sleeps at night, when she can, alone and adrift. I’ve shed tears over this one.

Anything that anyone can do to help out would be greatly appreciated. And right now it’s taking priority over my own family’s home struggles. This is one family that’s going to be in a warm, safe, home, if it kills me.

Thanks, and G-d Bless you all…


heather January 22, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Hi Everyone,

We’ve gotten some comments on this post from readers, but for some reason they’ve come up missing on the Dashboard, which means I can’t “approve” them. Specifically, one from “Anna” that came through to my inbox but never appeared on the site for approval. So if you don’t see your comment up here, please resend!

There has been some confusion about Cathy’s benefits, which is what most people wrote in about. Yes, military families do get compensation. Cathy’s husband was in the Marine Reserves, and Cathy was entitled to get survivor’s benefits upon his passing. But, this doesn’t happen quickly. In the meantime, Cathy still needs a place to live, and still needs financial help because none of those benefits have come through yet.

I just wanted to clarify that because there had been some confusion about what she was entitled to.

Again, if you submitted a comment on this and don’t see it up please feel free to resend it! I’m not sure why they haven’t shown up for me to approve yet.

RenaissanceRonin January 22, 2010 at 8:20 pm

In the last few days, just like Heather, who was kind enough to lend us a hand with putting the word out that we intended to help this family…

… I’ve gotten an email or two that basically reminded me of the death benefits paid to killed soldiers families.

I posted this comment on my blog posts too, but I’m going to post it here too, to insure that it isn’t missed by anyone:

Some commenters make it sound like having your husband or wife killed is like winning a government sanctioned lottery. Nothing could be further from the truth.

So, I just got off the phone with a Chaplain (One of the guys who sometimes comes to your house to tell you that your husband or wife has been killed), who reminded me that although there are programs available to dependents of killed soldiers, they don’t happen overnight.

In fact, it can take some time for them to start working thru to the families that need them.

He said he personally knew of several families that fell thru the cracks before the paperwork caught up.

Additionally, he went on to say that with the increase in troop deployments, housing officers are pretty aggressive in dealing with housing, and “as the clock ticks down” this does convince some “pressured” families to leave the base “early” only to find out that the housing allowance they’re entitled to won’t cover the actual cost of housing in the resettlement place of their choosing.

There’s a lot of duress attached to this. If you’ve ever lost a loved one, you can only imagine.

He also reminded me that this is the last “paycheck” this fallen soldier will ever get. EVER. If he’s young, it’s nothing but a pittance when you consider how long he or she would have lived and worked, in “Middle America” to support his surviving family.

Nor does it take into consideration existing debt, like car loans, home loans, or credit card debt. Most enlisted soldiers and their families live at what is basically the poverty level. Credit cards become life rafts, until you can no longer make the payments, because Daddy is dead.

Regardless of what programs this family is entitled to eventually, one thing is certain, they won’t lack for a home, NOW.

They already have enough to deal with.

And if they get a decent amount of money later, the surviving parent can insure that the kids will at least go to a decent college.


Tammy January 23, 2010 at 11:41 am

My brother died at the young age of 25. His daughter was able to get his survivor Social Security benefits for many years. Hopefully someone has already made Cathy aware of these benefits, as well.

heather January 24, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Hi Tammy,

I’m so sorry to hear about your brother, and thank you for bringing up that point. I’ll make sure Ronin let’s her know this option is available to her.

Zach January 26, 2010 at 9:23 am

As a former Army officer I’d like to help shed some light on the benefits that a surviving spouse receives from the government. During my last year of Active Duty I was assigned as a casualty assistance officer (an additional duty, not my primary role in the military) to a young woman who’s 19 year old husband had been killed in Afghanistan, so I am familiar with the process that occurs upon a soldier’s death.

– Every soldier/sailor/airman is entitled to SGLI (Servicemember Group Life Insurance) which is an opt-out program (everyone is in the program by default, you have to request to be removed). SGLI costs the soldier in the range of $1.50 a month and pays out $400,000 non-taxable upon death. SGLI claims are made within one week of notification to the

– A one-time non-taxable payment of $100,000 (labeled as the “Death Gratuity”) to assist with immediate financial needs.

– $2,000 for funeral costs, and provides (if desired) a white stone headstone (similar to what you’d see in Arlington Natl Cemetery). A General Officer will attend the funeral to deliver a flag and personally thank the family for the service of the soldier, unless requested not to.

– Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. This is a monthly pay-out plan that the casualty assistance officer has to help the spouse apply for. It pays out at roughly $1,200 per month plus several hundred for each child under 18. DIC payments are payable for life, as long as the spouse does not remarry. Payments terminate when the spouse marries again, and decreases accordingly when children reach 18.

– GI Bill education benefits transfer directly to the spouse if the soldier had not already used his GI Bill.

– Unpaid allowances – the remainder of the soldier’s monthly pay for the next 60 days (this includes the bonuses from hazardous duty pay, combat pay and any other special duty pay), plus the equivalent value of any unused leave accrued.

– At the discretion of the post commander the spouse, if living in government provided quarters, may remain on post for up to a year. I have never heard even a hint of a rumor that any post commander was declining this privilege to military families.

– Beyond this there are a large number of medical, educational and support benefits that can be applied for by the survivor.

Obviously the death of a spouse is traumatic at any time, and I don’t want to diminish that at all. As pointed out above, this isn’t like winning the lottery. Certainly there are numerous benefits paid out but there is a profound loss attached to it. Nevertheless, I believe that some of the information on this blog post unfairly characterizes and misrepresents the benefits to families that the government provides.

I don’t know the particular situation of this woman, but if the information presented here (that she received a “small check” and was told to vacate quarters) is accurate, I would highly recommend that she contact the Casualty Assistance Office and meet with them to fix her benefits. I would also encourage the groups involved in this project for her family to clarify the facts of the matter so that the impression to the reader is not one of the government abandoning military families as a matter of practice.

RenaissanceRonin January 26, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Hi Zach,

Thanks for the input.

As a 50+ year old man who has literally spent his entire life in the military (from base housing as a child to a life lived in “field conditions”) and around military families, I have been around military families who lost loved ones more times than I can describe without tears.

I have my finger on the pulse of this thing… I currently sit on a counsel filled with both active and retired military officers preparing to provide much needed aid to thousands of Haitian families, as they try to rebuild after the devastation of the earthquakes.

“Small” is a relative term. When you consider that this fallen soldier, probably young, probably with a young family, is suddenly GONE, forever, that check doesn’t go very far to insure that families survival, into the next decade.

NO amount of money will make up for that loss.

Social Security benefits for the children are helpful to be sure, but in today’s economic climate, no one is even certain how long those pools will exist, as these children grow up, without their parent.

There is no “black and white” here, in spite of what you might have experienced in your dealings with these families. EACH situation is different, and holds different variables.

No TAPs counselor can wave a magic wand, and make the hurt stop. And I’ve personally (as have MANY others) dealt with the CAO many times, it’s stressful, at best. I have an email folder full of horror-stories.

So, instead of arguing about how “the system is supposed to work”, I’m going to resolve one conflict that I KNOW exists, if I have to do it all by myself.

Their family has paid a terrible price. And, I for one, just want to show them that I’m grateful for their sacrifice.

And, I hope that others will also see this as just a way to say “thank you”, in a time when few rarely do, in spite of the politics, hardships, or the “State of the Nation.”


Christina Scavo August 2, 2010 at 10:46 am

I am a new Non Profit Charity looking for families in need to feature on my site.
Please let me know if there is anyway you can forward my information and site
to families you come across that can benefit from our programs. More info about our charity is below.

Thank you!
Christina Scavo, President
Belief For Relief, Inc.

Belief For Relief, Inc. Is a 501(c)(3) charity that’s looks to provide
financial assistance to families who have fallen on hard times due to
unexpected illness, job loss, or other hardship. Our goal is to return
these families to a financially sustainable level so that they can
regain the confidence they need to be successful and continue
to support their communities in these economically challenging times.

Barbara Driskell March 10, 2011 at 3:49 pm


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