Military families understand the emotional stress of having a loved one far away, sometimes in a war zone.

And a trip home can mean the world.

Just ask Pam Matt, director of the Helping Heroes Fly fund, which she says has paid for nearly 350 active-duty servicemen to get home to see family, new babies, you name it.

"We had barely gotten organized in 2015 when I got a call from a mother in North Dakota whose son was training with the Army down in El Paso, Texas, but had a new daughter he'd never seen," Matt explained. "We got that soldier home for a visit before he went to Afghanistan."

It's one of her favorite photos: Ethan Bahr holding his tiny daughter, Bexley.

Helping Heroes Fly is a simple idea. Matt and her husband, Richard, operate it as volunteers and supporters contribute to their ticket fund.

Pam Matt has nearly 20 years of experience in airline ticketing, so she knows how to find the cheapest flights.

Who qualifies for help?

"You need to be active-duty enlisted personnel with approved orders for leave," she said. "That's it.

"We've been able to help people get all around the world. Sometimes a soldier or Marine is just homesick and hasn't been home in a year."

Pam Matt speaks from experience. Her son, Tyler, served in the Marines from 2006-10. Her husband grew up in a military family.

"We flew one fellow home from Japan because he hadn't seen his family in over a year," she said.

No need is more important than another when people contact the organization.

"If they have approved leave, we can help," she said.

Anyone interested in helping the program can reach Pam Matt at helpingheroesfly@gmail.com or 970-371-1963. For more information, go to heroesfly.com.

proper@chieftain.com

Twitter:@RoperPeter