by Kim Gibson
Hillary Robinson is the daughter of a soldier. She was born at Fort Bragg, just west of Fayetteville. As with most military families, hers moved around, and she was 8 years old when she moved with her parents and her other sister to South Korea.
Her father, Lt. Col. Craig Thomas Robinson, a battalion commander in the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, was stationed at a nearby base. She remembers the day she was talking to her father on the phone, and he said he wasn’t feeling well.
He was due to participate in a run to honor the Battalion Spanish Heritage Day the next week. “I asked him not to go on the run” since he felt ill, Robinson recalled recently.
The next week, moments after the run was over, Robinson’s father died of a massive heart attack. The family had been in Korea for only about a month.
Robinson, now 24, still gets emotional when she talks about her dad. She loved him very much and misses him every day. After he died, her mother returned to Fayetteville with her daughters to be with friends and familiar surroundings.
Other Special Operations soldiers did not forget Lt. Col. Robinson’s family after his death. In time, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation contacted Robinson with an offer that has changed her life.
The nonprofit military outreach organization helps to pay for college for the children of special-operations military personnel who died in combat or training. Although Robinson ended up earning a scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the foundation still provided money for her books and housing while she got her bachelor’s degree in English.
“I knew since seventh grade that I wanted to be a teacher,” she explained.
And when Robinson wanted to go further in her studies, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation stepped in with a full scholarship for Robinson to get her master’s degree in teaching secondary English at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Today, she teaches English as a second language to ninth- and 10th-graders at J.M. Robinson High School in Concord. Next month, Robinson will move to the Ballantyne area and begin teaching English I to ninth-graders at Weddington High School.
“I am very grateful to (the foundation) for the opportunity to allow me to go to school,” Robinson said. “They are really invested in the kids of special operations soldiers. A lot of times they don’t wait for the children to find them. They seek out the children and actively make sure that everyone has a chance for an education.”
Wendy Bourland, communications and event manager for Special Operations Warrior Foundation, said many families of special operations personnel don’t know about the organization. So the foundation works hard to keep in touch with those children to ensure they know what is available to them. According to Bourland, 158 students have graduated from college on foundation scholarships, and 150 scholarship students are currently enrolled in schools.
“Another 500 children of fallen Special Operators are in the pipeline to receive scholarships when they are old enough for college or technical/vocational school,” Bourland explained.
Founded 30 years ago, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation announced last month it had received a fifth consecutive four-star rating from Charity Navigator, a national charity watchdog group. Only 5 percent of charities have received five, consecutive four-star ratings, indicating its ability to manage its finances efficiently, Bourland said.
A Navy veteran, Bourland explained that Special Operators work in secret and often don’t receive recognition for their service, which goes to the heart of the foundation. Members of the foundation love to hear the stories of children, like Robinson, who have received scholarships.
“It just reaffirms everybody’s belief here that this is a very good cause,” Bourland said.
Robinson is just happy to have had the chance to pursue her love of teaching.
“All of my students are fantastic, and I love them all,” Robinson said. “The bonds that I’ve built – I’ve really appreciated that.”
Birdies for the Brave supports nation’s heroes
On Nov. 3, TPC Piper Glen will host the 2010 Birdies for the Brave Tournament & Auction, a national network of PGA Tour Charities tournaments that raises money to support six nonprofit military outreach organizations. In a variety of ways, those organizations help wounded and disabled soldiers or the families of soldiers killed while serving their country. Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group is a media sponsor of the upcoming south Charlotte charity tournament. This is the first in a series of articles about the work of those nonprofit, outreach organizations. Participation and sponsorships for the tournament remain open. Find more information at the TPC Piper Glen website, www.tpcpiperglen.com (click on Birdies for the Brave, at the left of the page). Or call 704-846-1212 x235 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.