It is said the greatest gift one can give a fallen servicemember is to remember their service and the Family they leave behind.
At Survivor Outreach Services, these fallen Soldiers and their grieving Families are never forgotten. Since its inception in 2007, SOS has reached out to 1,751 Families, or about 3,348 survivors.
SOS strives to build a support program for Families of fallen warriors by providing resources and support groups, information briefs and activities. SOS has also partnered with local and national organizations in an effort to raise awareness and aid for these grieving Families.
One of these partnerships is with the Patriot Foundation, a scholarship foundation that seeks to provide financial support for the wives and children of severely wounded and killed in action airborne and special operations Soldiers.
On June 5, the Patriot Foundation came to Survivor Outreach Services at Fort Bragg to tour the facility and meet some of the Families touched by the foundation. During the visit, two Gold Star wives, Vanessa Cole and Wesley Bauguess, told how Patriot Foundation scholarships had helped their Families.
When husband and father Brent Cole was killed in action in 2009, he left behind his wife Vanessa and only son, Carson. In the years following Brent’s death, Carson continued to pursue the activities he and his father enjoyed — jiu jitsu, football and wrestling were just a few. Another dream that Brent had for Carson was that he pursue a college education. Thanks to SOS’ partnership with the Patriot Foundation, Carson already has a sizable grant waiting for him when he starts college in the fall. Through the grieving process, Carson has never let the absence of his father get in the way of pursuing the dreams they both had.
The Bauguess Family also suffered the loss of a husband and father. Larry Bauguess, whom his wife, Wesley, described as a “North Carolina boy who ... led from the front,” was killed in May 2007 while serving in Afghanistan. Through years of grieving, Wesley says she has come to realize “just how long forever is. The further you go, the more you realize how long it is.”
Something that has helped Wesley and her two children, Ryan and Ellie, cope has been the attitude to “be here now.” Wesley said the Patriot Foundation has done a good job of “being there now” for Ryan and Ellie.
The foundation has already given both children college grants, even though they haven’t even begun their college education. But both Ryan and Ellie have dreams of pursuing that education.
Ryan is a seventh grader who is head of the student council at his school. He made all A’s in the past academic year. Ten-year old Ellie is a math whiz who wants to become a chemist. “These kids,” said Wesley, “are going to be the future of our country ... I want to thank the Patriot Foundation for ensuring these children have a future.”
Both women expressed how the Patriot Foundation had brought them peace about college funding for their children. Bauguess said that because she can physically see the scholarship money in the bank, she knows her children’s education will not be forgotten.
Cole expressed her gratitude as well.
“I want to thank the Patriot Foundation from the bottom of my heart for healing a broken heart with peace of mind,” she said.