Organization Celebrates 100 Scholarships

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2008 - Operation Life Transformed honored six scholarship recipients, including the recipient of the 100th "Caregivers of War Wounded Training Scholarship," during its "Celebrate 100" reception held here recently.

Operation Life Transformed provides education and resources to wounded-warrior caregivers and military spouses through private and corporate entities. Its focus is to enable caregivers and military spouses to create a portable lifestyle.

"Forty-three percent of our applicants are moms and dads that move across several states [and] give up their jobs so that they can sit bedside with the loved one," said Tania Mercurio, chief executive officer of Operation Life Transformed, during the Sept. 17 event. "We need to lift just a little bit of pressure off our [servicemembers'] shoulders."

The last thing deployed servicemembers should be concerned about is the state of their family finances back home, she added. "We want them to concentrate 100 percent on the job at hand and returning to their loved ones," she said. "That's why we need to support these families."

The 100th scholarship was presented to Dimitrios Panagakos, whose wife, Lillian, an Army reservist, was severely injured in a mortar attack in Iraq 2005. She is continuing treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.

Linda Betancur, another recipient honored at the reception, said the scholarship offers her family a brighter future.

"It's an honor, and an answer to our family's prayers," she said. "The opportunity [Operation Life Transformed] and its sponsors have provided us with has helped us with having a hopeful future during our difficult time."

The event was held aboard the USS Sequoia, a yacht that has served more than nine presidents. The 83-year-old vessel, which Congress has designated a national historic landmark, is privately owned and its use was donated for the reception.

Operation Life Transformed is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

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