Memorial Day is approaching and Americans should think about those who died serving their country, but should also consider their families left behind. One organization, Children of Fallen Patriots, (https://www.fallenpatriots.org) has a mission to help the children of the fallen service members.
In 1989, five days before Christmas, Sergeant William Delaney Gibbs from the 7th Infantry Division was killed in action during Operation Just Cause in Panama, leaving behind a young wife and an unborn daughter. The Founder and CEO, David Kim, served with Sergeant Gibbs and was inspired by his sacrifice and never forgot about Sergeant Gibb’s or his daughter.
Military Press first heard about this organization from thriller author David Ricciardi, whose latest book is Black Flag. In each and every book he highlights this organization. Ricciardi stated, “It was started by a friend of ours who was an Army Ranger in 2002. Someone in his unit was killed, leaving behind a young child. David and Cynthia Kim decided to do something to help them and other families who lost a loved one. They committed time and money to this organization. After hearing what they wanted to do my wife and I were on board. At first, there was just a small fundraiser in our home town, but it has now ballooned to having corporate sponsors. Many of the staff are from Gold Star families. The mission resonates with me, and I hope with others as well.”
What the organization does is help children of those who died by making sure they don’t accumulate college debt. In 2019, $8 million was awarded in scholarships to these children. One of the primary goals is to identify the 20,000 students affected by working with the VA, Department of Defense, and other military charities. More than 53% of the families earn less than $50,000 per year and this year with the pandemic it could get worse. By giving the students scholarships it relieves some of the financial burden felt by the families left behind.
One of the recipients is Madison Roussel who now serves as a Scholarship Administrator at Fallen Patriots after graduating in 2019. She lost her father, US Army Staff Sergeant Kenneth Roussel in 2003 when she was six years old. He died of Post-traumatic stress disorder while serving in Korea. She remembers him as “loving, caring, goofy, funny, and a devoted father.” This organization allowed this first-generation college graduate to attend the University of Kentucky with a double major of communication and history.
Madison explained, “We help to pay for a student’s housing, books, and undergraduate tuition. The Fry scholarship provides Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the children and surviving spouses of Servicemembers who died in the line of duty while on active duty after September 10, 2001. If a student does not qualify for Fry or it does not pay all the school expenses we can jump in. We give a $500 stipend for books each term, a one-time stipend of $1000 for a computer, and out of pocket costs for living expenses. We also help financially with SAT/ACT preparation. If a student needs a tutor while in college, we will reimburse $1,000 per term. Any school is accepted as long as they have met the requirements, and we have had students attend Harvard and even Oxford.”
Tyler Overcash, the Corporate Partnership Officer, noted, “those students qualify if the Department of Veteran Affairs issues a determination letter where a parent had died in combat, training, from an accident, from an illness, or PTSD/Suicide. They must maintain, while in college, a minimum GPA of 2.0 per term. But we do give them a chance to raise their GPA the next term.”
Currently, 8000 out of 20,000 have been helped. Tyler gave an example of a mother who had two children graduate from college, leaving her with a debt of $60,000 in loans. “After we found out we reimbursed her so she does not have that financial worry. We are hoping to find more students by word of mouth.”
Hopefully, people will be inspired to contribute to this organization because Americans should not forget the fallen, but also should not forget their families. This organization needs people’s support to make sure that every child of someone who served and died can achieve their goal of going to college without having a financial burden.