I'm turning over my blog today to Jenny Howard, Program Director for Sentinels of Freedom. I've followed Sentinels of Freedom since its origination in San Ramon more than ten years ago. I recall Mike Conklin introducing his new organization to welcome home soldiers from Iraq at a meeting of the San Ramon City Council. This organization has come a long way since then and is growing each day. Here's a link to a CNN News story about Mike.
Here's the reprint of the August 2014 Sentinels of Freedom Newsletter that I received in my email today.
We hope this newsletter finds you enjoying the final stretch of summer.
Here at Sentinels of Freedom, August is generally a month of transition as we monitor the relocations and school enrollments of our Sentinels, spread across colleges and universities nationwide. Most of our student Veterans will begin classes in just a few days and we consider it our responsibility to ensure that they are well equipped both mentally and physically to succeed in the coming semester. Our Program staff is busy tracking needs or concerns as well as career and degree explorations. It is a challenging but exciting time for these young Sentinels who may be stepping onto a college campus for the very first time, and who may face challenges above and beyond the rigors of the classroom.
It is also a time of change for us here at SOF's northern California headquarters. Our staff has grown in recent months in conjunction with our expanded efforts to reach more disabled Veterans. Brandon Wong has joined us as Marketing Coordinator and Samantha Coe, wife of new Sentinel Shawn Coe, has come aboard as Program Assistant/Case Manager to help with the increasing number of scholarship applicants. Both have enlivened our office with their new perspectives and we're excited to have them join the SOF team.
While we here at the national office keep busy with the oversight of more than 150 current and graduated Sentinels, it is the diligent, impassioned work of local SOF chapters and mentor teams who deliver the life-changing support we promise. The men and women who come together in their communities under the SOF banner are the vital conduit through which our support is made real to each Sentinel family during the four years of an SOF scholarship.
A perfect example of this grass-roots impact is the story shared with us recently by RE/MAX Realtor Barbara Lyn of our Sentinels of Freedom Space Coast chapter in Brevard County, Florida.
Barbara and her team of volunteers welcomed Sentinel Robert Smith back in 2010 following Corporal Smith's medical release from the Marine Corps. Robert, who enlisted at age 18 following his high school graduation, was on his second deployment to Iraq in May 2008 when he was gravely injured by an IED explosion that detonated 150 meters from his platoon's base camp. All 9 members of his unit were hit, three severely including Robert, who ultimately lost his right leg to amputation and suffered deep shrapnel wounds to the nerves and tissue of his left leg.
Following a very long rehabilitation, Robert returned home to Cocoa, Florida with his wife and young daughter and enrolled in college, surrounded by the support of his Space Coast mentors. Since that time, he has completed his AA in Education, purchased a new home, welcomed a second child, and explored a number of career interests. His successful transition and the encouragement of his team ultimately empowered Robert to return to a lifelong dream of working in law enforcement, and with the help of the Sentinels of Freedom team, he petitioned for an opportunity with the county Sheriff's department.
Following a year of strenuous physical preparation and completion of a 16 week academy training course, Robert was welcomed as Brevard County's newest deputy in a ceremony earlier this month.
Eventually, given the county's encouragement and tuition support, Robert hopes to return to his degree program part time in order to pursue completion of a Bachelor's degree in Public Administration. You can see more about Robert's inspirational story and read SOF Chairman Mike Conklin's congratulations to Robert by visiting our website.
Robert's path to independence perfectly represents the core mission of Sentinels of Freedom. The men and women of our armed forces, who have put their lives and livelihoods on the line for our country, deserve our help when they return from war, especially when that return is precipitated by a life-changing injury. It is our obligation to assist these wounded Veterans as they reintegrate into their communities as civilians and our duty to walk beside them as they travel the arduous road back to self-sufficiency.
If you are inspired by Robert Smith, we hope you'll take a moment to scroll through the gallery of other truly remarkable Sentinels on our website. We invite you to get involved as a professional mentor, a donor, or an ambassador in your local community and to recruit others to join us as well via corporate affiliations, employee giving programs, or planned giving arrangements.
With gratitude for your interest and support,