|WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2008 – Thanks to a
recommendation from the Army Wounded Warrior Program at Fort
Riley, Kan., retired Army Sgt. Victor Thibeault of San
Ramon, Calif., will study general education with the help of
of Freedom” scholarship that also benefits his
“The scholarship has helped me to secure gainful employment
[and] a rent-free living space and a minivan for my family,
not to mention the unwavering support of the local
community,” Thibeault said.
The Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship Foundation provides
four-year “life scholarships” to help severely wounded
veterans become self-sufficient.
Scholarship recipients receive assistance with rent-free
housing adapted for physical needs, new furniture and other
household supplies, career-placement and training, new
adaptive vehicles based upon need, educational
opportunities, and financial and personal mentorship. To
date, the program has awarded 31 scholarships, with 20 more
in the pipeline.
Mike Conklin of Danville, Calif., the father of three Army
Rangers, started the Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship
Foundation. Conklin said he was inspired to reach out to
severely injured veterans after one of his sons was wounded
in Iraq in 2003.
“Impressed by the level of care my son received in military
hospitals and wanting to do something tangible to support
U.S. troops, I created the nonprofit Sentinels of Freedom
Scholarship Foundation,” Conklin said. “The four-year
program is meant for veterans with severe service-related
injuries who have the aptitude, attitude and drive to become
independent and successful members of society.”
Scholarship recipients are called ‘Sentinels' in honor of
their sacrifice and commitment to guarding America's
freedoms, Conklin added.
While in Afghanistan in 2003, Thibeault was injured when he
was ambushed driving through a crowded market place. A
Taliban militant threw a grenade through the driver's side
of his vehicle, and it landed under his partner's seat.
“I grabbed it and put it in the center console of the
vehicle, mitigating the effects of the blast,” Thibeault
said. “As a result of the blast, I suffered multiple
shrapnel injuries and lost all the fingers on my left hand,
except my pinky. I suffered damage to a large portion of my
left side and leg.”
For his wounds and for saving his fellow soldier's life,
Thibeault received the Purple Heart and a Silver Star.
Because of his heroism, he also was nominated to receive
“The scholarship has helped enforce a seamless transition
from active duty to the civilian work force through a
committed community dedicated to the welfare of severely
disabled veterans,” Thibeault said.
Thibeault is a senior support services technician for the
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District. Along with his
expecting wife, Maleney, and 2-year-old daughter, Delilah,
he moved from Kansas to California to accept the scholarship
and start working.
Any member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or
Coast Guard who suffered severe injuries - amputation,
blindness, deafness, paraplegia or severe burns, for example
- in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001, can apply for
the scholarship. Qualified candidates also must have “the
skills, experience and attitude that employers look for” in
filling available positions and must successfully complete
all interview processes, Conklin said. Once they become
Sentinels, he added, they'll receive support from a variety
“Sentinels succeed because whole communities come forward to
help,” he said. “Local businesses and individuals not only
give money, but also time, goods and services, housing and
“This has created a nearly stress-free environment where I
can focus on my life, education and family goals,” Thibeault
said. “The Sentinels of Freedom have exceeded my
expectations of what a nonprofit veteran service
organization can do and be.”