Special Operations Warrior Foundation Hosts Salute to Special Operations Forces in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Featuring Daughter of Fallen Air Force Special Operator

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Special Operations Warrior Foundation hosts annual "Salute to Special Operations Forces" in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Daughter of fallen Air Force special operation officer speaks about her father and the impact of having the foundation provide her with a college education.

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation is hosting its 9th Annual Emerald Coast Salute to Special Operations Forces Dinner on November 21 at the Emerald Coast Convention Center, in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Okaloosa County is home to the men and women of the Air Force Special Operations Command, including several Special Operations Wings, and also the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group. The dinner will pay tribute to members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel and their families.

Keynote speaker will be Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command. Maddeline Voas, one of the foundation's college scholarship recipients will also be a guest speaker.

Maddeline, or Madde as she likes to be called, is a senior at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where she is a senior studying forensic anthropology.

The first of two children born into a special operations family, she was 16 when her dad, Air Force Maj. Randell Voas, 43, lost his life on Apr. 9, 2010, after the Osprey aircraft he was flying crashed during a combat mission in Afghanistan.

Also surviving the highly-respected pilot was his wife of 18 years, Jill, and Madde’s then-14-year-old brother, Mitchell, who were living in the town of Shalimar in the Florida Panhandle.

As it has for the past 33 years, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation stepped in to make sure the children of Major Voas would receive a college education.

In the wake of her dad’s death, Madde found some of her anthropology classes emotionally difficult to take. But she drew on the inner strength she inherited from both of her parents, and powered through.

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation is more than a check-writing organization, as Madde describes, "There was always somebody I could call with school issues. I’m part of a bigger family.”

Knowing there are others who have gone through what she has is a source of comfort for Madde, who until very recently, shared her story only with her closest friends, not her professors or classmates – much less, the public.

In her final undergraduate year at UCF, Madde will begin studying for the graduate school placement test, or GRE. She also plans to continue on and obtain a doctorate in biological anthropology, which would place her at the pinnacle of her profession, and one day, teach her craft to others.

"School has always been a focal point in my life,” Madde says. "When I achieve something in school, I feel powerful.”

Back home in the Panhandle, Mitch is a high school junior with a job at a local grocery store. Both he and Madde are protective of their mother, but the assistance from the Special Operations Warrior Foundation has helped relieve some of her worries about her kids’ futures; and helped her cope during a very difficult time.

"I’m so grateful for everything,” says Jill, who, like Madde, considers the SOWF to be a second family. "Whenever I am asked about the military and special operations, I say that this is such a great organization. It makes my life better. With the SOWF, I feel nurtured.

"When I stand back and watch my daughter achieve her goals…if not for the SOWF, she wouldn’t be as successful as she is.”

Maj. Randell Voas’ service and sacrifice will forever be remembered by his loved ones, his comrades; and by the Warrior Foundation, through its ongoing relationship with Jill, Madde and Mitch.

"The SOWF is there to see these children succeed,” Jill says. "They can’t replace the parent, but they become family.

"It’s not just financial. You’ve had a hand on my back all the time.”

The Salute to Special Operations Forces is being held at the Emerald Coast Convention Center. Tickets are still available online at http://www.specialops.org/events/event_details.asp?id=284249

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation currently has 145 students enrolled in colleges and universities across the country and more than 600 students in the pipeline who have not yet reached college age. You can learn more about the foundation online at http://www.specialops.org/.

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Edie Rosenthal
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