“In life, you meet people who become as close as family. This is what comes to mind when I think of my weekend with the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund retreat.”
Asia Solomon is one of the scholarship students whom Freedom Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving our nation’s veterans and military families, hosted for an annual weekend retreat in Washington, D.C.
She continued: “It was an honor to meet others like myself, and get to know the people behind the magic, who have the most genuine, beautiful souls I have ever met. I am proud to be a part of the Freedom Alliance family forever, and look forward to future retreats!” Asia is not alone; she and 13 fellow students joined Freedom Alliance staff for an exciting weekend of Top Golf, a photo scavenger hunt, and even a Segway tour through our nation’s capital city. Because these students gathered from all around the nation, many of them took the opportunity to create new, lasting friendships amidst all the fun.
However, Freedom Alliance did not host these students for the relationships they made, but for their collective courage in the face of heartbreaking loss.
Each of these students qualified for a Freedom Alliance scholarship because their fathers paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country; this solemn fact, ultimately, formed the ties which bound these students together in kinship and camaraderie.
The kickoff reception for the weekend retreat paid tribute to these students’ strength: Tom Kilgannon, President of Freedom Alliance, introduced the students to our supporters, and told the stories of each of their fathers.
Shelby Summers, who twice previously attended the retreat, also spoke some words: “Freedom is not free, as many of you know. Myself, along with 13 other students here today, live every single day as Memorial Day. That is our reality… Freedom Alliance has turned one of the worst things that has ever happened to me into a paradox of happiness, gratefulness, pure love, and friendship.”
The heartfelt words resounded through the room—after the speech, supporters and allies thanked Shelby for her words, and reaffirmed their support for Freedom Alliance and the work the organization does in the lives of students.
Lt. Col. Oliver North offered closing remarks, reemphasizing the immense sacrifice that our soldiers make every day on the battlefield, and the courage that their families must therefore find.
As a capstone to the weekend, Freedom Alliance staff escorted the students to Arlington National Cemetery, where half of the group’s fathers are buried. This visit is an annual tradition for the Freedom Alliance scholarship retreat; however, the somber emotions are renewed every year. Rebecca Norton, whose father rests in Arlington, joined us for the first time this year—she hadn’t been able to visit her Dad’s burial site in years.
Through the relived grief, however, came new and lively friendships. The ability of each student to connect on a meaningful basis meant that they could both empathize deeply with their peers, and offer a profound amount of emotional support. Student Paul Kelly recognized, “(Freedom Alliance) helped me realize that even though my father passed away 10 years ago, people still appreciate the sacrifices that he and my family have made. Spending that weekend in DC with people who experienced similar loss to myself helped me more than I would have imagined.”
Experiences like Paul’s are the reason why Freedom Alliance works so hard to provide scholarships and support to the children of our fallen heroes. Visits to the National Mall and to Top Golf make for an enjoyable and educational weekend, but impacting the lives of our students in tangible ways makes for a cherished one.
Your donations allow Freedom Alliance to continue these efforts, and to keep forming first-name, face-to-face relationships with these courageous young men and women.
As David Smith, son of Medal of Honor recipient Paul Smith, put it, “Freedom Alliance is more than a foundation from its very core. It’s a movement where complete strangers become family. Where our future gets to thrive, and our families are never forgotten. Without Freedom Alliance, my life would have never been the way it is today.”