With mounting medical bills, a friend suggested that they turn to the foundation for financial assistance.
Henry Cordero, a Vietnam veteran, was diagnosed with dementia in 2018. He passed away on July 22. According to the Gary Sinise Foundation, he left behind a mountain of medical bills worth thousands of dollars, leaving daughter Jennifer Ruelas with no choice but to turn to her friends and family for monetary support. Her older brother's estranged and her sister suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which meant that tough times have befallen the family previously, too. Ruelas, who works as a claims specialist for a medical practice in Los Angeles County, had no idea what she had to do to pay off the debt.
In the weeks following her father's death, her immediate priority was to pay off the remaining balance of caregiver support and the cost of cremation. But then again, she had no money and she didn't know where she could borrow some from. So, when a friend suggested that they reach out to the Gary Sinise foundation as a leap of faith, she contacted the organisation looking for financial assistance. She wasn't disappointed, as the foundation agreed to pay off their debt. The support she received through the foundation’s H.O.P.E. initiative (heal, overcome, persevere, and excel) paid for the cremation costs and remaining caregiving fees. It was a welcome relief for the family, however fleeting, states the website.
"I’m just grateful that there’s a foundation out there that can help," said Ruelas. Her father, Henry Cordero, from Los Angeles, had a difficult upbringing. He is an example of an underdog attaining success through sheer perseverence and hard work. His mother was an alcoholic and he was regularly beaten up by his stepfather. By enlisting in the Army at the outset of America’s involvement in Vietnam, Cordero's idea was to escape from his stepfather's grasp and also support his mom financially. When he came back home after one combat, he was asked to go out on a double date, and although he wasn't looking for a relationship, he met Shirley in 1964.
It was love at first sight for Cordero. Three years later, he married her. Throughout his life and into retirement, Cordero made it a point of putting family first. "He went out of his way for everybody," explained Ruelas, the youngest of three siblings. When the love of his life died at the age of 50, he was devastated. However, he worked hard, to support his family. But when he was diagnosed with dementia, his mental and physical health declined. That's when Ruelas had to explain to her manager about cutting back from work. "My father is my life. He is my best friend, so when he is sick, I am going to leave. So if you guys can’t accept that, then I can’t work here."
She eventually had to cut down on her hours at work, which meant she had to sacrifice on a portion of her paycheck. Also, despite her husband earning, his paychecks weren't enough to cover the costs. A few months later, Cordero breathed his last, but Ruelas was right beside him. "He went peacefully and didn’t suffer," Ruelas said. Without the foundation, Ruelas would still be looking for a ray of hope. It was a blessing for them when the friend suggested they reach out to the foundation for support. It is evident that they will be eternally grateful to their friend and the foundation for helping them during such a tough time.