Army veteran and agronomy student Sonia Kendrick hung up her Army uniform several years ago, but she is on another mission to serve her country. Kendrick has seen the face of hunger in the food pantries where she worked in Iowa. Now she is pursuing a master’s degree in sustainable food systems to change a system where food is shipped to the community to one where the food is produced locally.
“My motto is: Food security is national security,” said Kendrick, who served in Afghanistan.
Trang Pham, a private first class in the Army Reserves and a nursing student at Virginia Commonwealth University, dreams of securing a commission in the Army Nurse Corps. In 2013, three years after joining the Army, Pham volunteered at the Burn Center of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif. She admired the “good-hearted nurses” there and felt compassion for the burn patients. She wants to pursue a nursing career in the Army so she can look after injured soldiers.
U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Ingrid Parker learned from her own wartime experiences and interaction with Iraqi women activists that women who live in such seemingly disparate cultures still share many of the same challenges in male-dominated societies. The observation intrigued Parker so much that she decided it would be the basis of her doctoral work as she “uncovers the institutionalized factors influencing the development of women’s opportunities in both societies.”
Parker, Kendrick and Pham are all Army women. They have something else in common. Because they needed financial help to achieve their academic and career goals, they turned to the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship program. They were among the 29 women who last year received Legacy scholarships totaling $51,000, and represent the caliber of the 2015 scholarship recipients who will be announced this month.
“The U.S. Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship is truly necessary for my successful military career,” said Pham, who was digging deep into her own finances to pay out-of-state tuition at VCU.
The U.S. Army Women’s Foundation, the only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to helping women soldiers, has been nurturing its Legacy Scholarship program since the program’s inception in 2008. Each year, it has increased the total scholarship fund and number of recipients.
“Education is critical to success,” said Major General Dee Ann McWilliams, retired, president of the Army Women’s Foundation. “It builds the foundation for a career. It makes a person more well-rounded and opens doors to new ways of thinking and achieving things.”
Last year’s $51,000 in awards will be eclipsed by the awards for 2015, which will be announced March 18 at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, located at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery. The foundation’s board of directors approved up to $75,000 for the scholarship fund for the 2015-2016 academic year, marking the seventh consecutive year of scholarship fund increases.
“These women have given much to our country. At a time when the cost of going to college far outpaces pay raises, we are pleased that we can help these patriots attain their education and career goals,” McWilliams said.
According to the private, nonprofit College Board, most college students rely on some sort of financial aid, whether loans, grants or scholarships. The federal government and colleges provide a large majority of those funding sources, but so do private, charitable organizations such as the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation.
Private and employer grants and scholarships make up 4 percent of the college financial assistance available in the United States, according to the College Board.
The U.S. Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship program is part of that 4 percent.
The U.S. Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship program offers financial support to students in four areas: technical certificate programs, community college coursework, undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees.
Eligible applicants are women who have served or are currently serving honorably in any component of the U.S. Army, and the lineal descendants of those women. Scholarships are based on merit, academic potential, community service, letters of recommendation and need. Coursework must be through accredited institutions.
Funding for the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship program comes from the foundation’s board of directors and from a variety of private sources, including corporate supporters such as The Home Depot Foundation, The Walt Disney Company and Prudential Financial.
Some of the foundation’s scholarships are named in honor of individuals.
Pham, for example, received a scholarship named jointly for the first WAC director, Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby, and the first Superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps, Dita H. Kinney.
Caryn Wagner, an Army veteran who sits on the foundation’s advisory board, funded two scholarships to honor the memory of her father, Major General Robert Wagner, who died in 2013. Major General Wagner had a distinguished 33-year Army career and served as the first Commanding General of Cadet Command at Fort Monroe, Va.
The foundation found two perfect matches in its pile of applicants: Carolyn and Kimberly Denny, twin sisters and Global Honors Program members in the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership at Mary Baldwin College. Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership is the only all-female cadet corps in the nation.
“The scholarships reflect his belief that women serve with distinction, his love for the Army as an institution, and his belief in the power of education to enrich individuals and institutions,” Caryn Wagner said. “He would be very proud of the recipients of the scholarships in his name.”
Besides the Legacy Scholarship program, the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation honors soldiers in other ways, too. A long-standing part of its mission is to preserve the history of Army women and promote public interest in the U.S. Army.
To achieve this, the foundation operates several other programs.
The Bronze Memorial Plaque program offers the opportunity to permanently honor deceased members of the armed forces, their friends and family, and the fallen heroes of current conflicts by placing their name on a bronze plaque that is located at the U.S. Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee, Va.
The foundation also has provided grants to help preserve the history of Army women through memorials and museum programs. In fact, the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation originally was the Women’s Army Corps Foundation, which was founded in 1969 to raise money to build a WAC Museum at Fort McClellan, Ala.
One of its grants was used to fund research to examine the economic and social impact of women’s service in the Army. That research, performed by George Mason University, was published in 2006. It found that service in the Army greatly influenced their educational advancement and played an important role in their civilian careers once they left the Army. (The study can be found on the foundation’s website, www.awfdn.org.)
“In our study with George Mason University, respondents stated that education and health benefits were the predominant reasons they joined the Army,” said Peggy Trossen, executive director of the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation.
The Army Women’s Foundation’s Hall of Fame program recognizes the extraordinary achievements of Army women and those who support them. The Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame Awards are presented in March to women who have contributed extraordinary service to the Army or the armed forces and any individual who has made exceptional contributions to women in the Army or the armed forces. Most inductees are women who have served in the U.S. Army, but the list of honorees also includes Brigadier General Wilma Vaught, U.S. Air Force, retired. Hall of Fame awards were first presented in 2009, and have been presented each year since then. The foundation also hosts an annual summit. Each March, in Washington, D.C., the Army Women’s Foundation brings together experts on defense, economic, political, health and social issues that affect soldiers, particularly women soldiers. The foundation and its guests have examined and celebrated the changing military missions and roles of Army women, the challenges they face transitioning back to civilian life, and the resiliency they demonstrate in handling both.
“All of our programs are designed to preserve the history and honor the service and sacrifice of Army women. Through our grants and Hall of Fame programs, we continue to preserve the history of their contributions to the country.
“Our Legacy Scholarship program honors the service and sacrifice of Army women’s past and current contributions, and also helps them shape the future,” McWilliams said.
For more information on the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation, go to www.awfdn.org. ♦
- Issue: 2
- Volume: 10