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Scholarships for significant others of fallen soldiers

A couple weeks into her second quarter at the Colorado Academy of Veterinary Technology in Colorado Springs, Alexandra Garritson is a year-and-a-half away from fulfilling her lifelong dream to work with animals.Getting there on her own has been a feat in itself. Not only did Garritson work two jobs and 14-hour days to pay her way, but she also did it after enduring the loss of her fiancÈ, U.S. Army Corp. Justin Clouse, in 2014.Garritson and Clouse had a plan.”Justin was going to graduate from the Army and take a full-time job so I could go to school and work part-time.”Then, Garritson’s plan ó and her life ñ- changed. During his second deployment in Afghanistan, Clouse lost his life in friendly fire; another Army soldier, three special forces soldiers and one Afghani soldier were also killed.”After that happened, I had to find out how to take care of the bills on my own and go to school. I realized I would have to pay for school by myself; and, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a scholarship available?’ I found a few for military families, but they were very strict ñ- they were for children or widows.”Unable to find a scholarship that fit her special circumstances, and not willing to give up on her dream, Garritson took matters into her own hands: She created the HEROES Scholarship.”I wanted to put a positive spin on what happened. This is a terrible thing that a lot of us have gone through. Ö I had just gotten back on my feet after everything that happened, and I decided, ‘I’m going to do it today, because no one else will,íî Garritson said.The HEROES Scholarship provides non-married partners of fallen military service members with financial assistance to attend college. Candidates must demonstrate the organization’s six core pillars: honoring loved ones, empowering themselves, renewing their love of life, overcoming hardships, evolving their spirits and supporting each other.Garritson said HEROES supports partners of fallen military service members financially and emotionally.”I was in a really bad place when my fiancÈ passed, and I had the support of a peer mentor from Tragedy Assistance from Peer Survivors. That support really turned me around and it let me plan my future again,î she said. ìWhen I started looking at school, I got that sinking feeling because I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it. With the scholarship, I’m paying it forward.îShe took on two jobs to save money to pay for her education, but that’s not a viable option for everyone, Garrison said.HEROES will host a benefit concert Aug. 11 to raise funds that will go directly to the scholarship fund. Garritson said she hopes to name the first scholarship recipient this fall. The ultimate goal is to award one to two significant scholarships each year, she said.The organization’s first event is themed around music because music comforted her in her time of need, Garrison said. “Music healed me tremendously after Justin passed because it helped me cope, and I connected to Justin when he was alive through music.”Garritson is also working on securing a nonprofit status for HEROES so she can assist more people in need.”I tried to think of people who have it worse off than I do. I had a helping hand, emotionally,î she said. ìI want to be a helping hand for someone else now… I want to be able to say, ‘You’re not alone.'”The first annual HEROES Benefit Concert will kick off Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. at Hillside Gardens, 1006 S. Institute Street in Colorado Springs. The event will feature musical artists Ned Ledoux and Sandy Wells. General admission is $16.For more information visit To purchase tickets, click “News/Updates.”

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