The organization offers college scholarships for Gold Star children
When retired U.S. Army Col. Jeanette McMahon lost her husband, Lt. Col. Michael McMahon, in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, becoming the sole guardian of her three boys was the most difficult undertaking. she ever had to do.
“Raising my three boys was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And compared to some of the other things that I’ve done in my life, you know, I’ve chosen some pretty tough things in my life. I went to West Point, served 27 years in the military there in a non-traditional female role. And to say that raising my three boys on my own after losing my husband was the hardest thing I’ve ever done is saying something,” McMahon said. “You have to do everything yourself, you know, and sometimes put the food on the table, do some other laundry and maybe read a story to your kids in the evening. And it’s important to have time with family, but it’s also important to spend time with each of them. And you ran out of time during the day. So it can be really daunting, a daunting task to do it on your own.
McMahon was well prepared to take on the task. After all, she was used to taking matters into her own hands.
“I had certain coping skills that because of my career and my relationships, you know, I ran organizations myself, that I had to run my family,” McMahon said. “You know, I used to train soldiers and go out and do missions. And you know, I had a mission.
This mission got a little easier when her eldest son graduated from high school and she heard about the Children of Fallen Patriots organization.
“It just so happened that some of the board members of the Children of Fallen Patriots were at their graduation, and I was introduced to them, and they were encouraging me, ‘You should join this organization, you should sign up for these benefits.’ And I thought, ‘You know, this is a great organization.’ But you know, my husband, I’ve put aside, you know, there are other people who really need that. And I don’t want to take anything away from that,” McMahon said. looked into their eyes and they said, ‘No, you don’t understand. There are Americans there who have donated to our organization so that your children can be cared for through the sacrifice of your husband. It’s not a scholarship you have to qualify for. It’s something these Americans want to do for you to honor your sacrifice. It was balm to the wound, it felt like my healing was beginning and that this had happened six years after my husband’s death. And I was still struggling at that time. And hearing those words, I still choke when I think of how those Americans wanted to support me, my loss and support my children, and that they were going to be there for us.
Children of Fallen Patriots is an organization that provides college scholarships and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. McMahon said for his three boys, over 10 years, they received $185,000 in grants from the organization. But even more important than that money was the emotional support the organization provides to the children it serves.
“I had an ongoing relationship with Children of Fallen Patriots for 10 years, because of the ages of my children and the way it worked. And so during those 10 years we had constant communication, we we’ve had phone calls, we’ve had emails, and the people who work with the kids there, they’ve all lost their dads, those scholarship administrators who work with our students, they’ve all been through this process , they’re Gold Star kids,” McMahon said. “And then they went to college on the Children of Deceased Patriots benefits, and they understand how the process works. So it’s so helpful to know that in my case with my kids, it was so helpful for them to be able to talk to someone who had gone through the same process, they didn’t have to talk about the loss. They didn’t have to talk about the fact that they were in this situation where they lost their father, but the fact that they knew it and had this connection was powerful. It had an impact.
McMahon was so grateful for what the organization did for her family that now, retired from the military, she works with Children of Fallen Patriots.
“It’s wonderful, because I can reach out to other families and other moms, you know, or even dads who have lost their spouse in battle or military service. And I can kind of help guide them through the process. And it’s great to have resources to offer that will help their children succeed. And that’s what’s so important,” McMahon said.
McMahon said applying for benefits is easy. The only qualification is to be a Gold Star child.
“The registration form is simple, you go to FallenPariots.org. And you go to our website, and there’s a button to register, you click the button. And the only information you have to give us initially is really your name, your date of birth, you know, your father’s name, his date of death. And we can go from there,” McMahon said. “We will also help students who are already in debt and qualified but haven’t realized it. So they can come to us after the fact and say, you know, I’m paying off student debt. One thing that I think is important for people to understand is that if you made the decision not to go to college when you were younger because maybe you weren’t not well or that you had difficulties, it does not mean that you cannot change your situation. Now, if you’re 24 or 28 and say, you know, now I’m ready to go to college, Children of Fallen Patriots will be there for you.
They also have a division where they work to help children get internships with companies and support them in creating resumes and how to ace an interview. All the important skills to get ahead in the career world.
McMahon said it’s sometimes hard for military families to accept help, but in this case, the help is definitely worth it.
“Most of these families were servants. This is how they approach the world, their soldier they lost served the country. And they kind of take on that facade and their family, that they’re the servants of the nation. So receiving help and support, they are used to being on the other end, they are serving. So it’s hard for them to say, “Yes, I need help now. So that’s the first hurdle in overcoming that need to say, “OK, now we’re going to take care of you.” And that’s OK,” McMahon said.
For more information about the organization’s programs or if you would like to donate, click here.
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