Camp Pendleton | North County Times | August 16, 2012
A nearly decade-old scholarship program that provides $15,000 to the offspring of North County-based troops killed in action has received a $500,000 infusion from the family that provided the startup funding.
The donation to the North County Honor Campaign puts it over the $2 million mark since the charitable effort began in 2003.
“This means we can help 33 more children,” said George Brown, executive director of the Armed Forces YMCA at Camp Pendleton, which administers the program.
The campaign was launched by the North County Times in consultation with Camp Pendleton officials shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The newspaper has provided free advertising and promotion while the Howard Foundation, formed after the family-owned Howard Publications sold the North County Times in 2002 to Iowa-based Lee Enterprises, has provided the bulk of its funding.
Among those who have and will benefit from the program are Carlsbad’s Karen Mendoza and her two children.
Mendoza’s husband, 37-year-old Marine Maj. Ray Mendoza, was killed in Iraq in November 2005 by a land mine while leading a group of infantry Marines in combat near the Syrian border.
Her two children, Kiana and Aleksandr, are among the more than 100 children of North County troops that have benefited from it.
Mendoza called the Howard Foundation’s latest donation “awesome,” noting that her daughter is studying international relations at Claremont-McKenna College near Los Angeles and her son graduates from Carlsbad High School soon and plans to attend college.
“Receiving the bonds for me and my family was a reminder that we will always be a part of the Marine Corps family,” Mendoza said. “And the YMCA has always had its arms out to help in the transitions we faced.”
Brown said 105 children of troops slain in Iraq or Afghanistan have each received $15,000 since the program began —– a distribution of $1,575,000.
The effort began as an award of bonds but was changed to investment instruments when the federal government limited bonds to $5,000.
While most of the recipients use the money for college, Brown said the program does not restrict the spending to higher education.
“It provides children whose parent paid the ultimate price the flexibility to pursue their own course after high school,” he said.
In many cases, Brown said children who receive the grant are or were too young to understand its significance. Dealing with the loss of their mom or dad overwhelms thoughts of college or post-high school financing, he said.
“But their family is later able to say that this was provided to them in memory of their parent,” he said.
The Howard family’s donation came after North County Times Publisher Peter York spoke with Brown and learned the fund was nearly exhausted.
York later contacted the Howards, who a short time later informed him they were making the $500,000 donation.
“It’s a great program for a terrible thing,” York said.