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Spring of Hope | by Danielle Thornton

Danielle Thornton is the surviving spouse of Army Sergeant Robert Thornton, who lost his life in 2017 while assigned to 1st Special Forces Command. They have two children, Kinsley, who is currently in pre-k, and Jaylen, who is in 3rd grade. Pictured above: Danielle with her children Kinsley (L) and Jaylen (R).

I awake every day with optimism and gratitude knowing that each of my young children, son Jaylen, eight years old, and daughter Kinsley, four years old, through the generosity of SOWF contributors, will be provided with paid educations through college. 

There was a time, however, not too long ago, when I was unsure how I would have enough money to pay for standard items let alone have the funds to pay for school expenses. On November 14, 2017, my husband, SGT Robert Thornton Jr. was killed while participating in a training exercise. He was assigned to the 528th Sustainment Brigade (Special Operations Forces who supply civil affairs and psychological support to Special Operators around the world), which was part of 1st Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg.

In the subsequent months, I heard about SOWF and their programs through the Survivor Outreach Program at Fort Bragg. Learning that SOWF, via donor, corporate, third-party events, grants, and planned giving, provides funding “cradle to career” (pre-school — college), to the surviving children of Special Operations Forces lost in the line of duty, I was relieved to know my children could start and finish their schooling debt-free, and be whatever they want to be.

Never too young to dream and already showing signs of ambition, Jaylen has stated he wants to become President of the United States. Kinsley, who has demonstrated compassion with others, is interested in serving as a nurse, which would align nicely with my own career — I am currently completing my degree to be a medical assistant. 

Jaylen has seized the moment and is utilizing the SOWF tutoring program, working closely with a nurturing teacher through online classes, which has been a game changer. Jaylen’s reading skills have substantially increased, and I am very impressed with the overall strides he has made. He is focused on all his subjects and incorporating the Roblox system, which features coding and other related curriculum. 

Kinsley is in preschool, a program also funded by SOWF, transitioning to kindergarten this fall. I believe preschool sets the tone for the future success of our children. In researching the benefits, an MIT study found “that participation in a preschool program led to significant long-term improvements in academic and behavioral outcomes in children.” I can attest to that, watching her interests both vary and increase on a weekly basis.

Truth is, I’m not sure what I would have done regarding school costs if SOWF had not stepped in. Looking ahead to college, I thought, how could I possibly afford the tuition and associated fees? I believe it’s important that donors know how much of an impact they make on situations such as mine. They have touched our lives in an incredible way, and I am beyond appreciative. If my children and I could thank each and every one of you, face to face, for honoring my husband and his service to our country, we would.