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MDARNG Soldier Loses His Home But Gains an Extended Family

Article By Sgt. Chazz Kibler, 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The Demnaou family

When it comes to the word family, it would be understandable if one would associate the phrase with relatives. However, a family can be more than that. A family can be the people who are there during challenging times. For one Cameroon-born Soldier, that need for help came from the Maryland National Guard after he lost his home to a devastating fire on Feb. 22, 2020.

“I want to thank Command Sgt. Maj. [David] Harry, and Chaplain [Amor] Woolsey because they are the ones who put my story out there,” said Spc. Julio Demanou, a petroleum supply specialist in the 729th Quartermaster Composite Supply Company based in Ellicott City, Maryland. “They sent out an email asking for help to the entire Maryland National Guard, and it was not long until I started receiving donations from people.”

Demanou was a bartender in a nightclub in his home country before deciding to travel the world and ended up in the District of Columbia. Coincidentally, Demanou met his wife inside a club in Washington, D.C. as she celebrated her birthday. They have five kids under the age of eight, which all were in the house at the time of the fire.

Spc. Julio Demanou assesses the fire damage in his home.

“I was at my civilian job when I got the call from my wife,” recounts Demanou. “She was crying, and she told me that our house was on fire. So, I just drove straight home.”

His family was devastated, losing all of their belongings, but thankfully no loss of life. Seeing their devastation, and recognizing a Soldier in need, Demanou’s leadership took action, requesting help from anyone who was able.

“My first initial reaction was the safety and well-being of [Demanou] and his family,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Amor Woolsey, chaplain for the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade. “We’re National Guard, we’re family, so I asked the question, ‘what could we do to support him and his family during this time of need?’

With the help of Harry and Woolsey, the plan to find Demanou’s family a new home was set into motion.

“I had given him contacts for the Howard County Housing Authority and these nonprofits in that area that could help in that situation,” said Woolsey. “The heartbreak of this situation was he didn’t have home insurance. But [a local] catholic school gave him like $5,000 along with gift cards, and also, other churches were able to help pay for the hotel that his family was staying in.”

Spc. Julio Demnaou, bags meals to be served to civilians in need in response to COVID-19 alongside Capt. Brendan Cassidy at Dunbar High School in Baltimore, May 6, 2020.

Demanou’s leadership was also able to help him find a way he could support his family and support the Guard, by working full-time on active duty operational support orders at Weide Airfield in Edgewood, Mayland. Demanou was serving on Title 32 orders for the MDNG’s COVID-19 response to the pandemic until July and was supporting food distribution sites throughout Maryland.  

“If you go to our Army Values, one of the things in there is loyalty, selfless service, and duty,” said Woolsey. “Soldiers are our biggest asset. You know, we can have all these tanks, helicopters, and these great Army things, but if there’s no one there, then there’s no Army.”

Demanou mentioned that he was surprised by the generosity he received from the MDNG members. 

“One of the biggest cultural differences between America and Cameroon is love,” said Demanou. “In Cameroon, we don’t have homeless people because people help each other. Even if you don’t have money, you help them out by offering them a place to stay in your home and sharing your food.”

The Guard family and their supporting communities continued to step up. The help the Demanou family received also came via social media.

Command Sgt. Maj. David Harry, 1297th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion command sergeant major shared Demanou’s story on his Facebook page.

“Between high school friends, military friends, friends from all walks of life, people were eager to find out where they could donate and what they could do to help,” said Harry.

Through the constant support of Harry and Woolsey, Demanou and his family are now in the process of purchasing a new home that will support their needs.

“I am proud of the way the Maryland National Guard responded in a Soldier’s time of crises,” said Harry. “Being a leader in the organization, I have witnessed some of the best of us. There is so many more individual success stories where soldiers across all levels come together to support one another and take care of each other.”