Afu Filisi is adjusting to civilian life. The 44-year old joined the Army Reserve in 2000 but was activated multiple times, serving two tours in Iraq.
But earlier this year, Afu's military career abruptly ended. Back surgery and foot problems forced his medical discharge. He hasn't been cleared by doctors yet to find other work. Add to that, the Veteran's Administration is only providing partial benefits right now. He is waiting for the VA paperwork to go through so he can get full benefits. But that won't happen before Christmas and that means he and his wife, Malia can't buy Christmas gifts for their seven kids.
The oldest is a full time student studying business at Remington College with a 4.0 grade point average.
Two others are in high school, one is in intermediate school, two more are in elementary school, but the youngest, a five year old won't start Kindergarten until next fall. Malia can't go back to work because they can't afford child care and Afu is constantly going to doctors appointments.
"It's a difficult situation, it's kinda tough getting less benefits," he says.
Malia is much more emotional about it. She says she sometimes goes into her bedroom and closes the door so she can breakdown.
"It's hard telling them we can't afford to give them things," she says.
Helping Hands Hawaii is working with the Wahiawa family to get Christmas presents for them. The family isn't asking for a lot, mostly clothes and shoes for all of the kids. The youngest wants some toys from the Avengers series.
While Afu and Malia know they won't be able to buy a tree or gifts, they do understand the true meaning of the season, "I thank God that we have each other. My husband, my children, at least we have fun," says Malia.
To help the Filisi family, call Helping Hands Hawaii at 440-3812.