You are 11 years old. You live on a military base in Yongsan in Seoul, Korea. You are excited for the day, because you, your younger sister, and your mother are going out for the day. As your mother is preparing for what will inevitably prove an exhausting adventure, there is a knock on the door. Two men in uniform stand there. As you and your sister dutifully play outside – exploring the parks, climbing trees, and bickering – the two men tell your mother that her husband, your father, a West Point graduate, a 20-plus year soldier, a Special Operations hero, is dead. And then you wake up. That was my Sept. 24, 1994.
This story is my own, but it is similar to dozens of children of Special Operators. Maybe they remember that day or remember what they were told happened that day. From that moment in time forward there is an irreplaceable void. The person, who not only gave so much to your family, but also to our country, is gone. Nothing can bring him back, but one thing can perpetuate his memory. His children.
Lt. Col. Craig Robinson was brave, honorable, dedicated, and loyal – a brother to his fellow Soldiers. He was my father. He wanted, like all parents, the best for my sister and me. Despite not being here to watch us grow up, his family ensured we received the very best in his absence. He lived every day through my mother’s determination to carry us forward. She pushed me to be brave, honorable and dedicated.
Ten years later, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) took the role my father would have when I wanted to go to college. They made sure that money did not stop my dream from becoming a reality. The Foundation’s scholarship allowed me to focus on academics, on internships, on graduating, and then later, securing a job. But it was not just a check in the mail. They did what Special Operations does best – they became a part of my family, too.
Growing up around other children of Special Operators, I have seen the sacrifices made by our fathers and be their families. I have also seen the amazing work of the Foundation. SOWF staffers mentor and encourage children who otherwise would not consider applying to college. Like their fathers, these children are incredibly successful. They work in all fields from serving in the military themselves to working in hospitals. Through Foundation scholarships, entire Special Operations families have gone to school. When you suddenly become a single mother, paying for multiple children to go to college becomes very difficult.
I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2005 and received one of the top awards in my department. While at school, I also held a part-time job as a television reporter and fill-in anchor. It was not easy to study and work, but because of the encouragement from SOWF, I was able to continue pushing forward. They helped me focus on what I needed to do so that, like my father, I was at the top of my field. Now, I am a reporter for WJLA ABC 7 News/News Channel 8 in Washington, D.C. It’s a job that took hard work to attain, but each day it is rewarding.
My sister is also a scholarship recipient. I watched with pride as she graduated last May from my alma mater. I sat next to two of my dad’s best friends who had worked along him for many years. It was one of those moments when I just stopped and thought about my dad. I thought about how proud he would have been to see his two girls following their hearts with big dreams of giving back to the world. My sister is now almost finished with work on her Master’s Degree. She wants to be a high school English teacher. She is able to do that because of another scholarship provided by SOWF.
These are stories that we, the children of fallen Special Operators, tell. We made it because of the bravery and dedication of our families and extended family, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. We made it with the ability to look back on the death of our fathers with pride knowing that they gave their lives to something bigger and that we can give back in whatever way we choose. As I think about the wars, the battles, the dangerous situations our troops are now in, I know the reality. I wake up to it every day.
There will be more stories, but I know the Special Operations Warrior Foundation will always be there to ensure a story of hope unfolds.
Since 1980, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation has provided college educations to the surviving children of fallen Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel. The SOWF also provides immediate financial assistance to severely wounded special operations personnel so their loved ones can be bedside during their recovery. For more information, visit online at www.specialops.org. To support the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, designate CFC #11455.