The trauma of losing a loved one echoes beyond the initial period of grief. As too many military kids know, losing a parent creates a lifelong void. While support programs can never bring back a parent, the Special Operations Warriors Foundation believes that creating education and career opportunities for the children of deceased Special Operations personnel is a way of remembering those who have given their lives for their country.
As a Special Operations veteran-founded company, TRX supports SOWF’s mission, and—in honor of Memorial Day Weekend and the brave service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice—TRX is donating 10% of its profits between May 28 and May 31 to SOWF.
History of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation
The Special Operations Warriors Foundation started in 1980, not as a fully-formed organization with leaders and offices, but as a battlefield promise. That year, eight Special Operations forces were killed during Operation Eagle Claw in Iran. The survivors in the regiment took up a collection to pay for college for the fallen service members’ 17 kids as a way to honor their sacrifice.
Samantha Ponder is the daughter of Master Sergeant First Class James Ponder who lost his life in 2005 while assigned to the 160 the Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Samantha is a graduate of Auburn University with a degree in Global Studies.
In its nascent years, those scholarships were organized into the Bull Simons Scholarship Fund. But, as more conflicts led to more casualties and created greater need, additional organizations came together to form what is now the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
Over the last 40 years, that battlefield promise has grown into a mission to support the families of all the special forces who have given their lives—both in funding education and providing financial assistance for families of the wounded.
“Our counselors are assigned to a family from beginning to end,” Ret. Col. Sean Corrigan, SOWF Executive Vice President, explained. “They’re with them the whole journey. They get to know the parents, they get to know the students, and really craft each service for that individual student.”
Ret. Col. Sean Corrigan, Executive Vice President of Special Operations Warrior Foundation
And, unlike programs that require a lengthy application process, SOWF reaches out to the qualified families—generally within 30 days of a service member’s death—making life a little easier in the wake of tragedy. “Our counselors are communicating with the surviving spouses frequently, and the frequency increases the closer [the kids] get to college, or the more interested they are in things like tutoring,” Corrigan said.
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation is best known for its post-secondary tuition program: the foundation ensures full educational financial assistance to children of Special Operations forces killed in the line of duty or training, and children of special operators who are awarded the Medal of Honor. Corrigan said funding education is a way to build a lasting legacy to those who gave their lives in the mission, and to set their children up for future success.
SOWF crafts cradle-to-career solutions—providing tuition, tutoring, and support to special forces families. “A family with three kids might have three totally different pathways to a career,” Corrigan said. “One might choose a trade, and we’re happy to fund a certified trade program… One might want to go into college, and one might want to go to the military. It’s all fine.”
The foundation’s educational funding starts as early as pre-school, offering up to $8,000 per year for surviving children ages 2-5 for preschool programs. When kids reach school age, they can receive unlimited private tutoring from kindergarten all the way through college graduation.
Declan Cade McClintock is the son of Army Staff Sergeant Matthew McClintock who lost his life in 2016 while assigned to the 19th Special Forces Group. Declan will be entering kindergarten in the fall of 2021.
While navigating the college admissions process, students can participate in a college planning workshop, receive access to the College Success Academy, and secure campus visit funding. Once enrolled in post-secondary education, SOWF students receive funding for tuition, books, fees, room and board, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses, plus a laptop and printer.
When it’s time to graduate, SOWF offers students free personalized coaching, mentoring and career prep programs, as well as travel and relocation expenses to support internships. That investment throughout a student’s academic lifespan means that SOWF students are more likely to attend, and graduate college, as compared to the national average.
Support for the Wounded
Families of wounded Special Operations forces often face considerable expenses while caring for their loved one, so SOWF launched a program in 2006 to help families with those costs.
“It began in 2006 with the realization that families were spending money out of pocket, and there was no department consent method of reimbursing them for expenses while their loved one was recovering in hospitals away from home,” Corrigan said. “Families were racking up large bills to pay for unpaid leave, to go visit, to fly in grandma to take care of the kids, to put the dog in the kennel; you name it.”
In coordination with the U.S. Special Operations Command Warrior Care Program and other nonprofits, families of wounded special forces now automatically receive a $5,000 check from the care coalition. The program applies to both combat-wounded service members and those injured during training. If a service member is in the hospital for a “significant duration,” the family may qualify for additional funds.
Shaina Shaw is the daughter of Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Shaw who lost his life in 2005 while assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Command. Shaina is a graduate of West Virginia University with a degree in Accounting.
How You Can Support SOWF
Memorial Day is the time when Americans collectively honor the military service members who gave their lives, but remembering those heroes shouldn’t be limited to a single weekend each year. “Memorial Day is every day for a Gold Star Family,” Corrigan said. “They’re living it. It’s important to know that they have support from ourselves and other organizations that are with them every day forward—from the point of loss until even beyond graduation,”
If you’re interested in contributing to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation’s year-round efforts to support military families, there are three easy ways to help.
- Shop with TRX during Memorial Day Weekend. TRX is donating 10% of all proceeds from Friday, May 28 through Monday May 31 to help empower families and support wounded Special Operations Personnel. Make a difference, and get moving to get strong for a lifetime.
- Make a Direct Donation to SOWF. The SOWF website accepts both one-time and recurring donations. If you prefer to send a check, make it payable to SOWF and mail it to SOWF, PO Box 89367, Tampa, FL 33689. If you work for a company that offers charitable matching, don’t forget to complete the necessary paperwork with your HR team to match your donation.
- Enroll in Amazon Smile. Did you know that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from eligible purposes to the charity of your choice? Choose Special Operations Warrior Foundation as your designated charity by going to smile.amazon.com or searching for Amazon Smile in your Amazon mobile app. (Only purchases made at smile.amazon.com or through an activated Smile account in the Amazon Shopping app will support your favorite charity, so check your settings.)
Ryan and Sean Sweeney are the sons of Army Staff Sergeant Paul Sweeney who lost his life in 2003 while assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group. Ryan is a junior at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania majoring in Marketing. Sean is a junior at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania majoring in Exercise Science.
Now in its fifth decade, Special Operations Warriors Foundation has supported more than 400 students through college graduation, and the staff are committed to working tirelessly to meet each new member family’s needs.
“It’s a very personal mission…for those that were in special operations,” Corrigan said. “It’s not lost on me. Every morning, I open the door and look at the pictures of the kids on the wall. My kids could be up on that wall, and be somebody else doing my job—taking care of them because I was the one that didn’t come out.”
Every day is #MemorialDay at TRX, which is why we’ve partnered with the Special Operations Warrior Foundation to give back 10% of all proceeds from now to Monday May 31st. Shop our 20% OFF EVERYTHING event until June 1—consider it motivation to give back—and honor those that made the ultimate sacrifice.