by Alex McClintock
SOWF has delivered big time, providing the ongoing support needed to assist my son Declan and me during a very trying period in our lives. When I lost my selfless and adoring husband Matthew, it was devastating. He was KIA on January 5, 2016, while trying to secure a Medevac landing zone to evacuate a teammate in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. When I learned that our son, Declan, was diagnosed with severe autism at two years old, my life was shattered once again. Still grieving, and a suddenly single mother, I had no idea what I was in for. Left alone to raise Declan with this disability, the challenges have been immense. Where we typically would have, neither Declan nor I can turn to his dad, my husband. Sadly, Declan will never know Matthew’s loving encouragement. Based on these combined traumatic experiences, I was unaware and not totally prepared for what the future may hold, and what it would be like to move forward without my husband, the person I counted on to protect both Declan and me. To compound matters, my mother lives in Scotland, and there is a significant geographic distance between my in-laws, therefore the isolation I have felt has been extreme at times. A tough situation to go alone.
I mean it when I say, SOWF has changed our lives. I learned the Foundation had a Students with Disabilities Program – and, through a staff member who has become my friend and confidante, Barbara, I now feel that I am not by myself sorting this through. We have developed a solid, trusting relationship and she is only a text away when I am seeking answers. She and the organization have been compassionate advocates and it has been a blessing.
Like many parents experienced, schools were shut down over the past few years. When Declan’s school closed and his diagnosis made it difficult to find a class that was appropriate to service him, I contacted Barbara. The guidance and inspiration I received from her have been our light at the end of a dark tunnel. I now sleep soundly, knowing that my son, the most precious gift Matthew gave to us, will always be loved, nurtured, and provided with the best educational approach possible moving forward.
What a difference SOWF has made. At this writing, my vivacious six-year-old is halfway through kindergarten. Originally not expected to interact with people or understand sentient life, my young stubborn son (gets that from his strong-willed dad), is learning to write his name and say the names of those close to him (including the names of the roughly 10 therapists he works with on a weekly basis). For those not familiar with a situation such as his, these milestones are a huge deal. Essentially, Declan is working his way towards becoming an independent person. He is beating the odds.
I want to thank SOWF for being there for Declan and me, and never letting us fail. We love you, our extended family, and we say to you and all who support us, when you go home tonight and sit around your table for a family dinner, I am here, staying in the fight, sitting down with my son because of you.
It is important to note, that since becoming involved with SOWF, I grappled somewhat with a feeling of pride. There have been times when I have felt like I have taken charity. This emotion caused me to question things. The reality is, I have so many blessings in my life, specifically my beautiful son and my good health, and it went against my norms to reach out and ask for assistance. During those soul-searching, tearful moments, I reached out to Barbara, and she assured me that “not only was it fine to embrace the program but that Declan is not a struggling child, rather he a struggling child whose father died for his country.”
I’ll always remember something Matthew told me regarding having his teammate’s backs, vowing during battle: “I don’t care, it’s what we do.” Thank you, SOWF, for standing up for Matthew, my son and me, and always doing what you do.