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Community Forged From Freedom Alliance

Mary Morgan

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Jessica Kramer Contributor
Freedom Alliance, a charitable organization that supports America’s fallen military heroes and their Gold Star families, had its annual Scholarship Fund retreat dinner Thursday.

The organization has awarded $13 million to scholarship recipients since 2001, with each college scholarship representing all U.S. military families and their sacrifices.

The four scholarship recipients — Shelby SummersBrandi Anderson, Nicholas Munsen and Scott Zangas — are spending the weekend in Washington, D.C., for a retreat during which they will visit Mount Vernon, the White House and Arlington National Cemetery, as well as some of their family members’ final resting places. The dinner was held at the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton.

As they celebrated military families at the scholarship ceremony, the group of recipients shared stories they had of their parents.

Anderson said she remembers her father placing her on his shoulders. Summers remembered a time when her father pulled a golf cart out of a pond she drove it into.

Others were too young to remember and said they rely on others’ descriptions and personal experiences with their fathers to get a better understanding of who they were. Zangas said he hopes to one day meet individuals on message boards who knew his father to develop a deeper understanding of who he was. Munsen, whose father was described by his flight instructor as a “superb pilot and always a perfect gentleman,” explained that it’s sometimes difficult to learn more. He had found out just a week before his father’s accident that although his father was passionate about flying and serving his country, he wanted to spend more time with his wife and son.

Whether it’s sharing their mannerisms, characteristics or an interest in the military themselves, the recipients said they are still connected to their parents’ legacies, and expressed even deeper senses of patriotism because of their status as Gold Star families. (RELATED: My Father Was KIA In Iraq In 2004. Here’s What It Meant For President Trump To Honor My Family This Weekend)

These students don’t just receive scholarships — they gain an extended family and community through the Freedom Alliance. They are able to meet other children of fallen heroes with similar stories, and get to engage with families who have experienced similar tragedies.

Freedom Alliance does additional work for wounded warriors who come back with little or no support in recovery, and even hosts marriage retreats for combat veterans.

“We never want marriage to be an additional casualty to war,” said Tom Kilgannon, president of Freedom Alliance.

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