Giving Back to the Children of Fallen Warriors
Sara Moola and her husband, Mike Vaughn, are accomplished leaders who live exemplary lives of dedication and service. Moreover, the Snell Isle couple is committed to our nation and serving the children of their fallen peers who died protecting it.
Mike is an Air Force Special Operations veteran with 21 years of service. Sara served the Peace Corp in Africa and is an expert in international development and geographic information systems. Together they own and operate Visual Awareness Technologies and Consulting, a non-governmental provider of global strategies, training and technology for the U.S. military and its allies.
Sara and Mike are unwavering supporters of the Special Operations soldiers and families who have made the ultimate sacrifice. This began with their involvement in the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF), an organization that provides free education and support to the children of Special Operations soldiers killed in action.
Sara says, “Through SOWF, the child receives the fallen parent’s GI benefits to attend college; however, there is no one there to mentor them on how to pursue internships, prepare for a job or make themselves more marketable in the job force.” This is what inspired Sara and Mike to establish the Special Operations Forces Warrior Outdoor Leadership for the Future (WOLF) five years ago.
WOLF is a nonprofit organization which provides college or career-bound teenage sons and daughters of fallen U.S. Special Operations Forces the opportunity to attend the WOLF Summer Leadership Camp in Park City, Utah. The camp provides indoor seminars focused on career development, combined with great outdoors activities.
WOLF’s career-directed curriculum focuses on business and interviewing skills, financial planning, and résumé development. The outdoor curriculum is designed to teach leadership and team-building skills through activities inspired by Special Operations training.
Upon completion of WOLF, each graduate leaves with a polished résumé, an internship opportunity, a certificate signed by the USSOCOM commander, a renewed sense of confidence, and a lifelong bond with those who share a common fate.
Sara and Mike operate the camp with a core group of volunteer Special Operations reservists and past WOLF graduates. The camp also attracts guest mentors made up of CEOs, Olympic athletes, Silicon Valley techies, and public servants.
WOLF receives approximately 30 applications each year. Out of those, only 12 to 15 kids are selected to attend the camp for one week in July. Aside from their common loss, acceptance into the program is merit-based. Sara says, “We can only accept a limited number of kids because we want them to have one-on-one attention with us and the mentors. We also want a close-knit community each session. So, we have to keep it small.”
WOLF attendees come from across the U.S. The cost to attend the program is 100% free. Even though the program is donation-funded, the majority of the costs are covered personally by Sara and Mike.
The Wolf program also is about friendship. Sara says, “Before WOLF, nothing like it existed. One of the most important things we’ve done is establishing a network between these kids.” Mike adds, “Through WOLF, the kids now have a peer support system.”
Sara says, “WOLF also gives the kids their own sense of identity.” “When they come to the camp,” Mike explains, “many kids are caught up in identifying themselves solely as the son or daughter of a fallen soldier.” The WOLF camp teaches them to move beyond their painful circumstances and identify themselves through their own accomplishments and life experience.
What motivates Sara and Mike to keep going? Mike says, “If we were one of the fallen, then we would want someone to do the same for our two boys. It is the drive to continue to make an important difference in these kids’ lives that keeps us going. Special Operations Forces are going to continue to be an important and larger part of the military ,and unfortunately there will be more kids to help.”
For more information or to apply to the Special Operations Forces Warrior Outdoor Leadership for the Future program, please visit www.sofwolf.org.