Reaching Out To Help Children Of Fallen Warriors
January 30, 2008
When a parent dies, their death often leaves the family that is left behind, with financial difficulties. Often, money that has been set aside for college funds has to be used to pay funeral expenses, as well as other bills that might crop up, or even just to meet day to day living expenses. The surving spouse may be a stay at home mom, suddenly faced with having to go into the workforce to provide for her children, often without much training, thus causing her to have to work minimum wage jobs.
The families of Fallen Warriors are no different. Often, the surviving spouse is very young, staying at home to care for their young children, to avoid the cost of childcare, which can be tremendously expensive. Even if the children are older, the spouse has often not worked outside the home and has no formal job training. College is often out of the question, as it’s an added expense that just can’t be afforded.
In Illinois, a new scholarship program has been created to ease that burden and enable the children of Fallen Warriors, to attend college. The scholarship program, called the Fallen Heroes Scholarships program, is a new initiative that was announced last Sunday by Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth.
The program was created to honor the children who have lost a parent in the military to the war on terror. It is designed to assist them in dealing with the sometimes devastating financial implications that can come with the death of a parent.
“We can never repay the family members, but we can never forget the sacrifice the service members made for us,” Duckworth said.
The program is designed, where the state will deposit $2,500 for each elgible child into a tax free Bright Start College Savings account. The children can then use the money to pay school costs, once they reach college age. The scholarship program is paid for by Oppenheimer Funds, which manages the state operated Bright Start program. According to Giannoulias, Oppenheimer Funds has agreed to set aside $500,000 each year for the program, as part os it’s contract with the state of Illinois.
According to State officials, approximately 150 service members from Illinois have died since 2001 in the war on terror, leaving behind an estimated 65 children. According to state officials, federal benefits for surviving children range from $160 to $881 per month, but they often fail to cover the entire cost of education.
As of Sunday, when announcement of the program was made, only 15 children had applied for the scholarship program. According to Ms. Duckworth, finding eligible recipients has not been an easy task. Military families move often. By working with the Department of Defense, the state of Illinois has mailed out information on the program to eligible families. According to Duckworth, many of the letters were returned undelivered.
“We believe there are dozens of children in Illinois and in other states that are eligible for these scholarships that we cannot find or who have not enrolled,” Giannoulias said. “If you know a child who has lost a parent during the war on terror, please help us reach out to their families so these scholarships do not go to waste.”
One recepient of the program, Charon Farmer was unsure how she was going to complete her education. Funding had run short and she’d had to drop out of school last semester. This semester, however, she’s back in school at College of Lake County in Grayslake, working on a medical imaging degree.
“Hopefully I will graduate in the next two years,” said Farmer, who added that the scholarship is a help, “especially for children whose parents can’t afford tuition.”
I think this is a great way to honor the children of our Fallen Warriors and commend the state of Illinois for creating this scholarship program. Hopefully with some publicity, other children from Illinois, who are eligible for the scholarship will be able to learn about it and put the money to good use on their education. Hopefully other states will follow the lead of Illinois and create similar scholarship programs for the children of Fallen Warriors from their states.