COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Alexandria Garritson is going to school to be a vet technician.
But getting there wasn’t easy after she lost her fiancé, 22-year-old Justin Clouse in Afghanistan in 2014.
“The plan with Justin before he passed was to go to school when he got out of the Army. He was gonna pick up a full- time job so I could drop down to part-time and become a student again,” Garritson said.
They dated for nearly a year and while they were engaged, Clouse still wanted to formally propose.
“He was basically planning this proposal for when he did get back,” Garritson said.
While those plans changed, going to college didn’t.
But since she didn’t qualify for military scholarships, getting financial aid was difficult.
“You don’t really count because you aren’t married,” Garritson said.
But they lived together, shared bills, and depended on each other financially.
“I don’t ever wanna see anybody feel like that and be in that dark place like I was. So, it’s really important for me and in my own healing process to help others and let them know that, ‘you aren’t alone’, we do care, even if it wasn’t marriage on paper,” Garritson said.
It’s why Garritson started the H.E.R.O.E.S. Scholarship – a non-profit made to help those who may easily be forgotten about, from long-term girlfriends, boyfriends and fiancées of fallen heroes.
“I didn’t want it to ever be a, ‘poor me, help me out’ situation. And I don’t want any of our recipients to have that spin on it either. I want this to be a very positive thing,” Garritson said.
The H.E.R.O.E.S. Scholarship held their first fundraiser Thursday, raising just under $4,000.
Garritson says she didn’t realize there were several others who have gone through similar struggles like hers.
She hopes to award the first scholarship in spring.
H.E.R.O.E.S. stands for:Honoring our loved ones.Empowering ourselves.Renewing our love of life.Overcoming our hardships.Evolving our spirit.Supporting each other. >>If you’d like to sign up or see if you qualify, click here.