Millions of Americans carry the heavy burden of making college tuition payments in an era of skyrocketing educational expenses. We all need help, but for the families of fallen servicemen, sending children to college can be an extraordinary challenge. Greg Islan’s goal is to meet that critical challenge, offering financial assistance to dependents surviving the death of a parent in uniform. His hard work and persistence in promoting this program sends a strong, patriotic message and demonstrates his resolve to stand behind the men and women who protect and defend our freedoms and care for those left behind.
The Connecticut native stepped away from the comforts of the corporate world to support the difficult world shared by these families of heroes. As Executive Director of The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, which was founded in 2002 in Greenwich, CT, his mission is to provide college scholarships and educational counseling to the children of military personnel who were killed in the line of duty.
“These are things we don’t even think about in our nice comfortable lives,” he says explaining his move to the position, in an exclusive interview with Veterans Advantage. “[Some of] the children will never know their dads, but families go on, the mothers (and fathers) go on and keep their lives together.”
His admiration for these steadfast families runs deep. The Vietnam Veteran and former photojournalist with the 101st Airborne, has witnessed the price of war. The foundation is also organized to support peacetime casualties, such as those lost in training accidents. These little publicized deaths, felt deeply by the families, underscore the fact that every year hundreds of service men and women are killed in non-headline-grabbing events like plane and helicopter crashes, ground accidents and mishaps at sea.
“We honor the professionalism, patriotism and selfless spirit of the members of our Armed Forces and are dedicated to caring for the families they must sometimes leave behind,” says the foundation’s Web site, which takes Enrollment Forms online.
There are many sources of college educational grants for the children of fallen service members, but many fall short of the funding needed. Thankfully, there’s the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, for instance, that performs many of these services for families of Marines. The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, likewise, aims to fill that similar gap for families from all branches of service.
The foundation also offers counseling services on finding other sources of financial aid and the college application process. Sometimes, the service involves the simple things like just compiling and organizing checklists. “Many people are still in shock,” Islan says. “We try to help fill the void in this area.”
PASSION FOR SUPPORTING EDUCATION
Greg considers special support for higher education a passion. He is a graduate of Colgate Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Virginia and Gettysburg College (1970), where he does fundraising and is Secretary of the Alumni Board. Gettysburg honored him in 2005 with a Meritorious Service Award for his civic contributions, for service to his community and to the College. He also does fundraising work for Dartmouth and Williams Colleges, where his two daughters attend and his son will attend next year.
He has been involved with fundraising and continues on the board of Heart Care International which provides heart surgery and cardiac assistance to children and training for doctors in Guatemala, Dominican Republic and, now, El Salvador. He continues to be involved in senior care, youth, church and volunteering in his local community.
Graduating first in his class at the Defense Information School, the training center for military journalists, Islan served as a Combat Correspondent in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division and the Army Support Command. Later, he served in the Public Information Office at the US Military Academy at West Point.
But it’s the service of helping surviving families which has now given him his greatest pleasure, inspired by families’ desire to thrive as well as survive. “The families are great. They are working hard to move ahead. [And] there’s never an unkind word,” he says. “It’s amazing to me how many of these people are trying to be self-sufficient and to move forward with their lives.”
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