From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 33 - November 8, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Foundation Gives Hope To Families Of Fallen Heroes

by Trey Wilkinson

On Sunday many will gather with family and friends, others will spend time by themselves reflecting, remembering and honoring those who have risked and sacrificed their lives to protect us. Veterans have done more than their share over the years, and one group, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF), has extended its arm even farther with an approach that reaches out to the children and families of lost loved ones.

The SOWF’s mission is devoted to providing a college education to every child who has lost a parent while serving in the Special Operations Command and its units during an operational or training mission.

Beginning in 1980 as the Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons Scholarship Fund, the fund was created after the Iranian hostage rescue attempt, to provide college education for the 17 children surviving the nine special operations men killed or incapacitated at Desert One. The fund was named in honor of the legendary Army Green Beret who repeatedly risked his life on rescue missions.

Following the creation of the United States Special Operations Command, and as casualties mounted from actions such as Operations “Urgent Fury” (Grenada), “Just Cause” (Panama), “Desert Storm” (Kuwait and Iraq) and “Restore Hope” (Somalia), the Bull Simons Fund gradually expanded its outreach program to encompass all Special Operations Forces.

In 1995, the Family Liaison Action Group (established to support the families of the 53 Iranian hostages) and the Spectre (Air Force gunship) Association Scholarship Fund merged to form the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

In 1998, the Warrior Foundation extended the scholarship and financial aid counseling to also include training fatalities since the inception of the Foundation in 1980. This action immediately added 205 children who were now eligible for college funding.

One local young man has been given an opportunity to further his education through the SOWF. Michael McDaniel, son of Bea McDaniel and the late Michael McDaniel, is a senior at Pinedale High School who, thanks to this foundation, will get the opportunity to better his life.

McDaniel Sr. was killed in 1994 while serving in the 7th Special Forces Group in the United States Army in Chile, South America. According to Bea, in 1998 Michael Jr. was added to the list of children eligible for college funding.

“They contacted us immediately,” she said. “It was nice to know that we weren’t going to have to worry about starting a scholarship fund or saving the money. It took a large amount of stress off us.” Bea also said the Foundation and process is very personalized.

“Michael has his own guidance counselor (through the Foundation),” she said. “A lot of us (family members of fallen Special Operations Command soldiers) know John Carney (the president of the SOWF) personally.”

Bea also said the families are invited to a number of fundraisers and events throughout the year.

Michael's mother feels another bonus of the foundation is that the children aren’t forced into joining the military.

“They don’t in any way push you into the military,” she said. “They allow the kids to decide what they want to do. I’m pretty impressed by that.”

Like most scholarships, the SOWF Scholarship requires the studentsmaintain certain academic standards. Some eligibility criteria include possessing a high moral character as demonstrated by good citizenship; displaying a record of school and community activities that reflects a belief in patriotism and American goals and ideals; having a record of academic achievement of 2.0 grade point average or higher as demonstrated through high school transcripts and SAT test results that together substantiate his or her ability to achieve these goals; among many others. The SOWF is a private donation fund only and is not subsidized by the government.

The SOWF is currently committed to providing scholarship grants to more than 700 children. These children, like Michael, survive over 600 Special Operations personnel who gave their lives in patriotic service to their country, including those who died fighting our nation’s war against terrorism as part of “Operation Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan and the Philippines, as well as “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Michael recently received a binder/manual informing him of what funding resources he is eligible for. “This helps fulfill the hope my dad would have for me,” Michael said. “He would want me to go to college and this will help.”

After Michael fills out and sends in the necessary information, Bea can look forward to a bright education and future for her son.

“This foundation can provide Michael with a great start in life,” Bea said. “A lot better start than his parents had.”

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