“You can accomplish great things when you don’t care who gets the credit!” So says Guardian of the Republic winner Peggy Baker. Peggy is the CEO of Operation First Response, a 501(c)3 foundation which she founded out in the kitchen of her farm home in rural Virginia.
Peggy’s son joined the Army after 9/11. “For the mother of a member of the military it is a fine line between immense pride and all-consuming fear, especially when you know that war is imminent,” Peggy says. In an effort to stay busy on the home front and fend off worry, Peggy joined a military mom’s internet support group. Peggy learned that a member of the group, whose injured son had just returned home, was making a trip to Walter Reed Medical Center (WRAMC). Peggy decided to make the two-hour trip in support of her friend. According to Peggy, that visit was “the first day of the rest of my life. I found an answer to prayer.”
Peggy says, “From that day forward, my way to support my son was to serve his brothers and sisters that were returning home injured.” Peggy’s family went into WRAMC several times a week bringing in requested items and visiting with the nation’s recovering wounded. Originally, the expenses for these visits and the assistance were borne by Peggy and her family. Along the wa,y many wonderful people joined with her and in September of 2004, Operation First Response (OFR) was officially established. OFR began providing assistance from the onset of injury, throughout recovery and along the transition from military life to the civilian life. Peggy saw first-hand the devastating impact that severe wounds, life-changing amputations, and painful surgeries have on our wounded warriors.
Peggy explains, “For many this was causing devastation in their finances, causing them to lose their homes and vehicles. I saw the pain this brought to all sides, for the family members the choice of leaving their loved was unbearable and for the warrior trying to recover, the burdens were just as heavy. How do you concentrate on getting better when you see life falling apart all around you? Our goal was to be able to help the family by paying the bills back home and alleviating that worry.”
Often these injuries are followed by mounting bills at home, necessary job retraining, home renovations and more.Peggy and her family decided to sell their farm and give up life in the country, home schooling, and caring for their farm animals so she could devote herself full time to helping wounded warriors and their families. To date, her organization has helped more than 11,000 families and soldiers. For her selfless sacrifice for those who themselves sacrificed, we have named Peggy Baker a Guardian of the Republic in the community.
If you want to learn more about Operation First Response or help our wounded warriors and their families you may contact Peggy Baker at Operation First Response.