The mainstream media has an uncanny ability to both depress us and cure us all in one swoop. Stories about diminutive enlistment numbers and bloodshed in Iraq precede advertisements for Paxil and Prosac. The stories they don’t tell are often the stories most deserving of airtime, stories highlighting groups such as The Freedom Alliance.
The Freedom Alliance, founded by retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, is dedicated to preserving the American heritage of freedom. It does so by honoring and encouraging military service and promoting a strong national defense. The Alliance focuses on aiding wounded veterans and their families and on running leadership programs for high school students.
The unique military leadership programs accept high school applicants from around the United States. Freedom Alliance President Thomas Kilgannon says “the aim of this program is to get every student to serve their country somehow through identifying their talents and determining how to best put them to use to benefit the nation.”
It’s essentially a summer camp for young patriots. The young people are led through training by ‘escorts’ (i.e., or program staff) comprised of Freedom Alliance staff and cadre, military personnel and volunteers Students are expected to participate in a rigorous physical training regimen that is designed to teach students the importance of physical fitness. The first couple of days of the program mirror actual boot camp with students learning how to make their beds, set up their lockers and how to march in lockstep with one another. As the program advances students participate in more advanced activities. Students have piloted F-18 flight simulators, attended Quantico’s night vision lab and negotiated obstacle courses. Beyond physical fitness, students participate in a leadership curriculum based upon seven core values: Selfless Service, Integrity, Dependability, Responsibility, Teamwork, Respect and Courage. Students learn why these qualities are important in leadership and how to foster their development.Students also participate in motivational tours of military units while having the opportunity to meet with active servicemen and women.
In order to graduate, all students must return home from the camp and complete community service projects. Many graduates of the program go on to enlist in the armed services or enroll in the service academies.
According to Kilgannon, these young patriots want boundaries, discipline and attention. The program attempts to give them all three things while steering their interest into positive activities that benefit the entire nation. Kilgannon says it is unfortunate that for many young people the military is “out of sight and out of mind… too many leaders and especially liberals don’t have faith in young people. They attempt to keep recruiters off of high school campuses.” Kilgannon has faith that when exposed to ideas of freedom and service, young people realize their true potential. In order to qualify for enrollment students are expected to be between age 15-18, passing all High School classes, be capable of participating in intense physical conditioning and have a strong desire to learn.
The Freedom Alliance’s other principal function is in providing scholarships to the sons and daughters veterans who are injured or killed while serving this nation. For over 17 years, the program has given out $1 million in scholarships with an average of $3,000 going to each student. 105 individual student scholarships were awarded during the 2006-07 academic year .The Alliance has contributed 40,000 dollars to the dependent children of the 21 soldiers and 33 sailors killed at the Pentagon on September 11, 2000, while also givin 25,000 to the USS Cole Memorial Fund for the children of the 17 sailors who were killed in the attack.
Another central aspect of the program is to provide support for wounded troops. Kilgannon reports that injured troop morale “is high, they’re very proud of their service and most wounded troops want to return and finish their tours.” To help these wounded warriors The Freedom Alliance hosts activities such as troop appreciation dinners where injured troops from between 15- 20 differed bases are treated to dinner at a variety of appealing restaurants.
Giving a helpful hand to both solider and nation, The Freedom Alliance, raises funds through a successful summer concert tour. Their “Freedom Concerts” started in 2003 with just once concert. Now with the support of Sean Hannity, the tour stops in five sites (Georgia-7/10, San Diego- 7/26, Cincinnati-8/9, Dallas-8/14 and New Jersey-9/11). The charity concerts feature some of the brightest stars in country music including, Montgomery Gentry, Lee Greenwood and LeAnn Rimes. According to Kilgannon, country music and these concerts make perfect partners “country music is positive, patriotic and the artists are tremendously helpful.” Those who want to listen to some great music and help fund the nurturing of young patriots should go to http://www.hannityfreedomconcert.com/ for ticket and event information. All the money raised from these events goes directly to funding the Freedom Alliance youth programs.