It was over 30 years ago when President Jimmy Carter authorized a top-secret mission to rescue 52 Americans held hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The failed rescue attempt resulted in the deaths of eight American servicemen and forced the military to reorganize its special operations capabilities, eventually leading to the establishment of the United States Special Operations Command.
Even before the command was created, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation provided college scholarships and counseling to children of special operations personnel killed during operational or training missions.
The foundation traces its roots back to the Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons Scholarship Fund, named after the Army Special Forces officer who led an attempted rescue mission during the Vietnam War. The fund was established after the failed rescue mission in Iran to provide a college education to the children of those killed in the operation.
The invasions of Granada and Panama, along with operations Desert Storm and Restore Hope, brought heightened attention to the unique capabilities of Special Operations Forces. In order to respond to mounting casualties, scholarship and counseling was extended to include all Special Operations Forces. The Special Operations Warrior Foundation was formed officially in 1995 after several charities merged to form SOWF.
In addition to providing college scholarships and counseling, SOWF gives financial support to severely wounded special-operations personnel. Currently, 133 students are enrolled in colleges and universities throughout the nation thanks to the foundation. In 2009, $2.7 million was provided in scholarships and family assistance. Over $300,000 was provided in 2009 to hospitalized personnel.
The foundation has earned national acclaim for its efforts. The SOWF has been recognized by the Better Business Bureau, the Independent Charities of America and Charity Navigator, a charity watchdog group. FOX News personality Glenn Beck has long advocated for the organization’s efforts. Beck recently auctioned off a private dinner at his Connecticut home with proceeds going to SOWF. Proceeds from Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally on August 28 will also go to SOWF.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. military placed a renewed emphasis on its Special Operations Forces. SOWF estimates that 396 special operations personnel have been killed since 9/11, leaving behind 450 children. Over 60,000 personnel are covered by the foundation and, according to a professional actuarial firm, the organization has a financial need of $76 million, a challenge likely to be aided by Beck’s rally.
SOWF remains dedicated to relieving surviving parents of the financial burden of putting a child through college. As not all children qualify for funds provided by the United States Government Veterans Association, the foundation plays a vital role in ensuring that surviving children of special operation forces have the opportunity to receive a college education.