Angels of America’s Fallen (AOAF) was formed in 2012 by a military retiree with service in the Army as an enlisted field artillery cannon crewman, the Marine Corps as a fighter pilot, and the Air Force as a reconnaissance pilot.
It was formed to address a critical gap he saw in support of children of his fallen friends. The children were young, but there was no program focused on year over year long term active support of them while they were still children. There were college scholarships, few private school scholarships, week long summer camps or gatherings, and birthday gifts, but no long-term support for positive outlets for their grief throughout their entire childhood. Often those programs focused only on children whose parent passed in combat, and did not include first responders.
He found there were over 16,000 children of our fallen since 9-11-01, and their average age was just seven years old at the time of loss. There was a critical gap in support to meet their needs while they were growing through their crucial formative years and facing greater risks of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and dropping out of school without the support and guidance of their fallen parent. Initial grief counseling didn’t address follow-on effects, and college scholarships weren’t impactful until the children became adults. The short-term outings were beneficial, but the children often became depressed after they returned to the same circumstances that existed before, and didn’t have a positive outlet for their grief.
AOAF fills this critical gap by supporting not only the children of combat fatalities, but also those who lost their parent to training accidents, illness, or suicide, and military and first responders. They empower the children to participate in sports, music, or arts activities with a coach or instructor who can provide some mentoring and guidance the children are lacking. The children pick their interest, their parent choses the provider they prefer, then AOAF contacts that provider and coordinates direct payment for the service. Much more than just writing a check to pay for the activity, AOAF follows up to encourage the children and share in their successes. Once a child is registered, they are supported all year, each year all the way through 18 years old, without reapplying. The long-term commitment and engagement combination is highly impactful.
AOAF is headquartered in Colorado Springs, and supports 51 local children with a total of 330 children supported nationwide. There is no national database tracking the location of children of our fallen, but it is estimated there are over 300 in Colorado alone. The problem continues to grow. Even with less troops deployed, there are many new children who have lost their parent. Training accidents and combat fatalities still occur, and unfortunately suicides occur at an alarming rate. First responders are also subject to PTSD and suicides, and they face more threats at home than ever before.
Did you know: 35% of the children supported by AOAF are ones who lost their parent to suicide?
Lack of funding to pay for the activities is the only barrier to engaging more children in healthy activities. AOAF receives no government funding. This allows them to retain the flexibility to say “Yes” to the families that fall through the cracks in the system.
AOAF is funded solely through individual donors, corporate sponsorships, and grants from foundations. They are looking for sponsors and individual donors who will stand with them to support children of our fallen who would otherwise be struggling with invisible wounds on their own. You can donate and find more information, including their full audit and IRS Form 990, at www.aoafallen.org. Also, on the website are “Angel Story” videos of supported families that show the impact the support they receive, news, and upcoming events.