Military members give back to area youth through Operation Heroes Connect

Sixteen-year-old Deja Adams. (WJLA photo)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) – A few months ago, Zenia Boswell worked in the White House Military Office providing presidential travel support. Now, the retired Army staff sergeant is serving a different role as a mentor with Operation Heroes Connect.

Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Tee Hanible started the nonprofit organization that pairs current and former military members with children in D.C. and Virginia who are facing tough times.

"My dream for these kids is just so they can grow up with more opportunities," said Hanible.

That means instilling in the youngsters the value of education and giving them encouragement when life gets them down.

Sixteen-year-old Deja Adams met Hanible three years ago when her family was living in a shelter, and there was an instant bond.

Now Deja says, "When I feel like giving up, I can just always call her and she'll talk to me and tell me everything is going to be OK. She's just always there."

For Hanible, that support came from her foster parents after her father died. Operation Heroes Connect is her way of giving back.

"At the end of the day when we go and meet these kids one on one, we just go in with our hearts," Hanible said.

Hanible says she's already seeing positive change in the children as a result of Operation Heroes Connect, including being more engaged in school and helping out more at home and in their communities.

She says her mission will be accomplished when the mentees ultimately become mentors. In all, 40 mentors are making a difference in the lives of 41 youngsters.

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