Fourteen sons and daughters of our country’s fallen heroes attended this year’s Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund (FASF) Weekend Retreat. For some participants, this was their first retreat, while for others it was a return trip. Even so, for all it was landmark event.
One great intention in the work of Freedom Alliance is to provide for the children of those who have made this ultimate offering of their lives in military service. The FASF does this by meeting financial needs for those young people pursuing college degrees. Our scholarship recipients attend schools all over the country, and some of these students happened to be quite young when they lost their parent.
Many of these heroes are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C., and so, this is where the FASF retreat convenes each year. For our attendants, 10 of the 14 had parents interred in the cemetery. We gave each of these a wreath, flowers, and a flag to lay on the headstones; the other four accompanied others to their fathers’ burial sites.
Previous retreat attendees also made their way to friends’ fathers’ markers to offer their care and solace, having known one another for some years now.
Anthony Cutino hadn’t been to his father’s grave in a long while. He said it was tough being there, but he appreciated having the chance and had been looking forward to it. Master Sergeant Cutino was killed in a helicopter crash when Anthony was nine years old.
Madeline Voas recently graduated with a degree in anthropology from the University of Central Florida. “I’ve wanted nothing more than to do that lately. I miss him,” she said of her father, Air Force Major Randell Voas.
Strive Communications president, Victor Rogers, a steadfast Freedom Alliance advocate, came along with his daughter Abi to offer his support. He authentically conveyed his thankfulness and respect to the students as they returned from the gravesides.
As solemn as this moment was…having a bunch of college students together, we couldn’t not have some amusement, as well.
We headed from Arlington to the Harper’s Ferry Adventure Center in Purcellville, Virginia, for a confidence-shaping, teamwork-building challenge. More than 50 cable and rope bridges and zip lines make up this aerial ropes course.
Anna Muralles, whose father Marcus was killed in Afghanistan, is afraid of heights, and yet, to her astonishment, she was able to complete the track.
“I’ve never done anything like that before,” exclaimed Cortney Horrigan. “I really felt like I overcame something I thought was one of my biggest fears…heights!”
The Ritz-Carlton at Pentagon City gave us a great deal on accommodations, so the students were able to experience the nation’s capital after all the activities, which included dinner, shopping, and dancing.
On Saturday, the crew gathered with Freedom Alliance president, Tom Kilgannon, at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. We embarked upon a VIP tour, given by Mrs. Gail Cassidy, which included an unnerving trip up a ladder to the cupola to overlook the beautiful estate grounds, something very few visitors have the opportunity to do.