Supporting a family on a single paycheck can be difficult, particularly for lower-enlisted military families whose annual earnings are often less than $30,000. Add in a newborn child with special needs and those dollars have to stretch even farther.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Cesar Tamayo and his wife Briciela were feeling the pinch after she had to quit her job during her pregnancy. Their son, also named Cesar, was then born with a clubbed foot, meaning they had to make a nearly four-hour round trip to a hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, every other month from their home at Coast Guard Station Port O’Connor, Texas.
“We were just living off my income,” said Tamayo, 32, “so it was tough to make ends meet.”
Many of the trips required overnight stays in Corpus Christi, which put even more strain on the family budget.
But on one trip earlier this year, the Tamayo family found a welcome financial reprieve.
“My son was in the process of surgery and we were talking to a friend who had four kids and he told me that the USO of South Texas had baby items for free,” Tamayo said. “I would always hear about the drives to collect items like that but for some reason I didn’t realize the items were there for people like us.”
Tamayo and his family drove to the USO center and were greeted by USO of South Texas CEO Nancy Allen, who directed the family to the area of the center they call the “baby room.”
“I told them to feel free to take anything they needed like formula, diapers, wipes, and other necessities,” Allen said. “When he came out of the room with diapers in his hands he had tears rolling down his face. He was just overwhelmed with the generosity of the USO.”
“With help like this you realize after the fact how much it helped take the stress off of everything else going on in your life: the money, my child, my wife,” Tamayo said. “To not have to worry about having enough diapers and formula is — everything. We’re really thankful.”
“It’s amazing how much something little like a pack of diapers can mean to a family living paycheck to paycheck,” Allen said. “We’re so happy for everything we can do for these young families.”
It wasn’t Tamayo’s first interaction with the USO, but it was arguably his most impactful.
“I told my wife when I first joined the military, the USO was there at the airport when I went to boot camp,” he said. “I’ve always had a good impression of the USO from the very start, and this just confirms for me that they are everything I thought that they were. They were there for me when I needed them.”