By Haley Miller
Westfield City Council member Scott Willis was deployed to Iraq in 2004, shortly after his family had moved to Westfield and while his two children were still in diapers.
“Being new to the community, we didn’t have a lot of friends, a lot of connections,” said Willis, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. “That was a burden my wife had to bear during my absence. I swore up and down that if I ever had the opportunity to do something about that, I would.”
Years later, Willis championed an initiative that would help ease some of the day-to-day challenges for families of deployed Armed Forces members as well as public safety personnel injured in the line of duty: the Hometown Hero Program.
The Hometown Hero Program will cover lawn care services and snow removal for public safety personnel and active service military members who qualify. The Westfield Board of Public Work and Safety, which will administer the program, began accepting applications July 14.
“The stress on families that are left behind, it’s immense,” Willis said. “One less thing to have to worry about certainly makes an impact.”
To qualify, public safety personnel and their families must live in Westfield, and the applicant must indicate service-related disability status. Westfield families of active service members deployed out of state are eligible for the duration of deployment.
Willis said administrators of the program have connected with several local businesses to support operations, and he hopes to see more businesses participate in the future.
“That’s really what we were hoping for,” Willis said. “The city could be the catalyst in launching this program, and it’s probably the easiest point of contact in managing the program, but the whole intent was to get the private sector involved in executing the program over the long haul.”
Willis said the Westfield community has provided an “outpouring of support” since Hometown Hero’s inception. So far, the city has one “Hometown Hero” active in the program.
“I hope there’s never very many people in the program because that means we’re not at war, we’re not mobilizing our Armed Forces, and our public safety personnel are healthy,” Willis said.