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Blog: How a Widowed Army Mom Put Three Kids Through College

By Dr. Laura on February, 7 2023
How a Widowed Army Mom Put Three Kids Through College

I spoke on-air with Colonel Jeanette McMahon, a Gold Star widow and mom of three. Col. McMahon's sons were Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation scholarship recipients, and this financial support helped all three of her sons to graduate college and continue pursuing their dreams. 

🔊 Click Play to Listen to this Interview

Dr. Laura     I'd like to welcome Colonel Jeanette McMahon. Welcome, Colonel. I'm standing straighter and saluting.


Col. Jeanette McMahon     Thank you, Dr. Laura.


Dr. Laura     We're here because you are a Gold Star mom. I'd like you to start with how you met the love of your life, Michael.


Col. McMahon   Mike and I met when we were young officers. We were both assigned to the 101st Airborne Division Air Assault. We met at church one Sunday. That afternoon, we went running together and dancing a week later. We were engaged for four months on Valentine's Day and married six months after that. And wow, it was a wonderful life. Seventeen years later, we were both stationed in Hawai’i with three boys, who were four, 12 and 14, when Mike was deployed to Afghanistan.


Dr. Laura     And how long was he there before he passed?

Col. McMahon     Mike was over there for seven months. He was going to be heading home soon. We were just crushed. We found out that he was killed in a plane crash, and it was it was such a struggle for me and for the boys. He was such a big part of our life. He was so full of faith and had such a great sense of humor. The world revolved around him. We had such a wonderful life. After that, it was just such a struggle. Just the little things, you know? As a mom, having to make dinner every night, having to do that next load of laundry, day after day. It was really tough.  
Dr. Laura     You had to do all those things while he was deployed though, right?

Col. McMahon      I did I have help from family. At that point, my parents had decided to come live with me for his year-long deployment. They knew it would be a rough year. We managed to have dual careers in the military up until that point because we had always been able to manage one person on staff and another person in a more difficult position. This was certainly the toughest challenge we've had. But the family was great, stepping in and helping out.


Dr. Laura     How did you get connected with Children of Fallen Patriots?


Col. McMahon     My oldest son was graduating from high school, and it just so happened that General Petraeus was the guest speaker at his ceremony. He had grown up in this in this town, and so he had kindly asked to meet our family afterwards. He had heard about our situation. So, after the ceremony, we met with him and his wife, Holly Petraeus, and she told me she was a founding member of the Board of Children of Fallen Patriots. She encouraged me to sign up my kids for the scholarships. I was really resistant at first because I thought we were officers, we had put away we had some resources, there must be other people who need this more than we do. She grabbed me by the arm, looked me in the eye and she said, 'No, you don't understand. Your husband sacrificed for our country. And this is how American patriots want to support you in your time of need.' This happened in 2010, six years after Mike had passed. But it was the healing that I needed. It was just such an incredible emotional support. I didn't realize there were lots of Americans out there wanting to support us in our sacrifice. I immediately signed the boys up. That was my introduction.

Dr. Laura     What was the response from your boys?

Col. McMahon     Children in the military grow up with the service mentality their parents have. They want to serve their country, and they grow up in that. Even my boys were resistant at first. The staff of Children of Fallen Patriots are all Gold Star kids themselves. They've been through it. When they were on the phone talking to my kids, there was an immediate connection and support for their situation. And they didn't even have to say it, they just knew it. My boys love the organization as much as I do. It's wonderful to be on the team now and give back to many families out there that continue to need this support.


Dr. Laura     It sounds like what you're saying is not just talking about financial, it's an emotional connection. You become part of the family and feel emotionally supported at the worst time in anybody's life.


Col. McMahon     I think you hit the nail on the head. Certainly, financial support is helpful. But the emotional support was so crucial to all of us being able to walk through that journey of grief, which for children can last for years. Their brains are developing, and they don't understand grief the same way they might as an adult. My youngest was four, and you can imagine how he understood the loss of his father. But when it was time for him to go to college, he understood it much differently. He had to reprocess that grief. He was able to talk to someone who had gone through a similar process, and was now guiding him in applying to college, getting through those financial hurdles but knowing that they have a shared bond of losing their parents in conflict. It's just so supportive and helpful.

Dr. Laura     What would you like to say to my audience, many of whom have purchased from the Dr. Laura Designs Store? All the money goes to the kids of fallen patriots and donated just directly. 


Col. McMahon     I would like to thank your audience personally for their incredible donations. I'd also like to thank you too since it's clearly a labor of love for you to make this jewelry. The fact that you donate 100 percent of the proceeds to Children of Fallen Patriots is just as incredible. I would say that there's still a huge need out there. We're just now entering the phase of supporting Gold Star children from the highest number of American losses we had 20 years ago. Honestly, the monetary need is at its greatest. If anyone wants to donate to Children of Fallen Patriots, you can go to our website at www.fallenpatriots.org and donate directly. Any amount is appreciated because we have a big job to do, and we don't want to let any of these kids down.   


Dr. Laura     Thank you so much. I'm very impressed with you and your family. Thank you for coming on to let people know there's something wonderful they can do for somebody else. If you talk about purpose in your life, there's more than enough purpose when you matter to someone else.  Lots of hugs to the kids, Colonel Jeanette! 


Col. McMahon     Thank you, Dr. Laura!  



Click Here to Donate Directly to  Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation



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