Military Members Give Back to Area Youth Through Operation Heroes Connect

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.

Warriors for a Cause

Operation Heroes Connect is a non-profit organization that partners volunteer service members and veterans with at risk youth. Founded in 2011, Operation Heroes Connect wanted to give back to the communities that have continued to support us. With so many children in need of a positive role model in their lives, the service members and veterans of OPHC can answer that call.

Our mission at Operation Heroes Connect is to help provide assistance to at risk adolescents, by helping them to explore and access the support, resources and opportunities necessary for them to reach their full potential and make positive choices in their lives. Operation Heroes Connect provides support, guidance, friendship, role modelling, assistance, and an attentive ear to those in need.

A recent Question & Answer with the organizations CEO & Founder, Tawanda “Tee” Hanibleprovided an even better look into this valuable resource. This is what we asked, and this is what the very busy but highly focused “woman on a mission” offered us:

Marine Stands Out Through Volunteerism

FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- Gunnery Sgt. Tawanda Hanible, diversity operations chief, office of diversity, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, was honored by the USO of Metropolitan Washington during the organization’s Annual Celebration of Volunteers here, Saturday.

Hanible, a native of Chicago’s South Side, stood out among her peers for her impact in the community and won the USO-Metro’s 2013 C. Haskell Small Award.

“She’s a shining example and embodies every trait of a selfless volunteer,” said Elaine Rogers, president and chief executive officer of the USO-Metro. 

The USO-Metro asks every military branch to submit one candidate for their yearly volunteerism award, and according to Rogers, they seek to honor an enlisted service member who selflessly helps others while maintaining an outstanding record of military service. 

A Marine Way of Life



In February 2012, Mrs. Hanible was chosen to represent the state of Illinois at a dinner by the White house honoring Iraq veterans. If you remember, this is the very same Marine that was featured in Newsweek Magazine in 2012 for their “Heroes Edition” and later during their “Urge to Serve” panel for the Newsweek Heroes Summit hosted in Washington, DC which spotlighted her efforts in and out of uniform.

Her organization Operation Heroes Connect has been awarded The Black Celebrity Giving’s 2013 Rising Star Award and the Action in Community Through Service (ACTS) 2013 Volunteer of the Year Award. In 2013 Mrs. Hanible founded Finding Your Vision Expo, a female empowerment expo that assists women find their purpose. The expo provides a forum for female entrepreneurs to become educated in the world of business and help empower them to step out on their own. This year Finding Your Vision Expo held its first ever expo hosted by celebrity, Grammy nominated R&B singer Syleena Johnson.


Gunny Sets Example, Receives Washingtonian of the Year Award

Gunnery Sgt. Tawanda “Tee” Hanible, and her family attended the Washingtonian of the Year Award ceremony in the Ballroom at the Willard InterContinental Hotel, Washington, D.C, Jan. 15. Since 1971, Washingtonian Magazine has been recognizing individuals, who have stood out due to the impact they have had on the community. “I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, friends and loved ones,” Tee said, a Southside Chicago native who most recently serves as the Administration Chief with Delta Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division.


Washingtonian of The Year - 2014

Marine Gunnery Sergeant Tawanda “Tee” Hanible is an Iraq War vet, but some of the toughest battles she’s fought were on the streets of Chicago as a teenager. “I didn’t think my family understood me,” she recalls. “I acted out in so many wrong ways.”

Her adoptive mother sent a teenage Tee off to a military school run by the National Guard. After Hanible graduated, she followed her brother into the Marines. Still on active duty, Hanible has been stationed at Quantico since 2011. She’d previously volunteered in every community where she’d served, including as a Big Sister, and planned to look for similar opportunities in Virginia, but of the mentoring programs she contacted, one had a yearlong wait for volunteers and another charged the families it worked with. So Hanible started her own.

washingtonian of the year 2014 Tee Hanible

Newsweek Heroes Edition - In Iraq, A Mom Marine's Urge to Serve

You’re not Marine Corps material—you won’t make it.”

That was Tawanda Hanible’s brother, Lindell, running down the sister who had always shown him up in school. Lindell was two years older and already a Marine. He told “Tee,” as she was called, “you’re too girly.” He forgot that she was also stubborn as a fence post.