Alumnus Byron Davis founds organization to pay airfare for service members
Sitting at the worn dining room table of his Forest farmhouse, Byron Davis recalled a phone conversation with the parents of
“Mike is on his way to Afghanistan, and he didn’t have any money to come home before he left,” Davis said, paraphrasing the parents. “We would’ve never been able to see him before he left.”
Davis’ ministry provided the plane ticket, and the soldier surprised his parents for Christmas. When Davis finished the story,
“Those types of situations make what we do that much more urgent,” Davis said.
In 2015 Davis’ son, then a soldier in Alaska, told Davis that many service members receive leave for holidays but cannot afford to get home. During holidays, Davis said tickets average $1,300.
In response, Davis and Melissa, 1986 and 1988 Liberty graduates respectively, founded the ministry Operation H.O.M.E. to raise money to cover the travel costs of enlisted service members who could not afford to travel home for the holidays.
“Once we knew the strain on the soldiers it broke our heart,” Davis said.
Operation H.O.M.E. stands for “Helping Our Military’s Enlisted.” The nonprofit prioritizes military members who have not seen their families in two or more years and have extenuating circumstances such as ill family members. Davis receives nominations forwarded through soldiers’ chaplains, confirms the information with commanding officers and interviews the candidates.
Lt. Col. James Hall, a chaplain, has worked with Davis since the first year. He said service members often insist that someone else needs the ticket home more than they do.
“(As) soldiers, we don’t have the expectation that anybody’s going to treat us special,” Hall said. “And when someone treats us special enough to send us home to see our family that we’re far away from. … To be able to do that does create a lot of joy.”
Davis told of a soldier named Miller who had won custody of her children after a divorce but had to send them to their grandparents about 4,300 miles away. Hall said Miller had been sending money to help care for the children, leaving her without enough to travel. Operation H.O.M.E. flew Miller to North Carolina to see her children for the first time in over a year.
“She just came back really energized, really happy,” Hall said.
Each service member sent home receives a package. It includes their itinerary and tickets, a green-black military Bible, Christian music CDs by Guy Penrod (1985 Liberty graduate) and letters from Operation H.O.M.E. and a local pastor. The letters explain the ministry and its founding in the gospel, inviting the military member to know Christ. Davis said he has yet to hear of any salvations but said God has called us to plant the seed.
Many of the service members Davis selects have been sending pay home. One soldier sent pay to his father and siblings in Puerto Rico, where a hurricane destroyed his neighborhood. Operation H.O.M.E. funded his trip to New York to see his daughter for the first time in over a year. A video on the ministry’s website shows the soldier hugging his daughter in her classroom.
In 2015 when Operation H.O.M.E. began, Davis sent 10 soldiers home. This year Davis hopes to send 65, though he has yet to reach the $100,000 goal.
“Each year it has been a complete God thing that we have met our goal,” Davis said. “… It’s (through) people who see the need, understand that it’s real, and are willing to say thank you to the
Stories and videos of the service members’ trips home can be found on the
Those interested in helping Operation H.O.M.E. in the work of getting service members home for Christmas may do so by visiting the 501c3 organizations web site at www.operationhome.us.
Donations can also be sent by mail to:
Operation H.O.M.E. Inc., PO Box 423, Forest Va., 24551.