Debbie Tate is a military mom and the founder of T.O.M. Fly Home. T.O.M. stands for Texas Overseas Military. Tate says she started the organization to help servicemen and women pay for flights home during leave.
The government does not pay for military personnel to come home on leave. So people serving on bases in Europe, Japan, even Hawaii can't always make it home even when they have time off. PFC Jose Aguilar is in Germany and has two weeks leave before he gets deployed to Iraq with the Army's 1st Armored Division. His mother Christine Aguilar heard about T.O.M. Fly Home through the local Red Cross.
Jose Aguilar uses his military pay-check to support his wife and two-year-old daughter, and his mother says there's no way they could afford to fly him home for Christmas without this help. She says Jose was in the ROTC in high school and joined the Army after September 11th. T.O.M. Fly Home is still in its infancy. Tate formed the organization in April and has raised a total of $3,500 so far. All of the money is already spent on bringing Aguilar as well as two other servicemen home for leave. Tate says she's trying every method she can think of to raise money, including sitting outside of grocery stores asking for donations. She's also working on agreements with Delta and Continental airlines.
T.O.M. Fly Home is funded by private and corporate donations. It is pending IRS approval to receive non-profit status.