FORT HOOD, Texas - As the costs of tuition at most universities and colleges continue to rise, 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers and their families have an option available to them which helps defray some of the costs incurred when seeking higher education.

The 1st Cavalry Division Association, a non-profit, non-political and non-sectarian Soldiers and veterans fraternity, provides this opportunity to First Team families in the form of a scholarship grant from the association's scholarship foundation.

"(Due to the high costs), anyone trying to put someone through college in this day and age needs to have some savings," said Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Webster (ret.), the executive director for the 1st Cav. Div. Association. "It can be difficult (for them) and what we try to do is help a little here and a little there with assistance in meeting their educational goals."

The scholarship grant --which can be applied for every year-- currently provides $1,000 per school year to Soldiers and family members who apply and are accepted into the program.

"Obviously, (the Soldiers and their familiy members) are very grateful and you might be helping a spouse, who may have kids, to provide them with tuition for books and lab fees-and that really means a lot to them," said Webster.

Some of the prerequisites for Soldiers or their family members to receive the scholarship grant include that the Soldier must currently be assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, must be a member of the 1st Cav. Div. Association and the Soldier or their family member must be enrolled in school for the upcoming school year in which the scholarship is applied for. The grant is offered to any active First Team Soldier and their family members regardless of rank.

Applicants must fill out an application form, submit finance information, include their college transcripts and write a 500 word essay.

According to Webster, Soldiers and family members who meet the pre-requisites for the scholarship should not be afraid to apply as some years there are fewer applicants and that he's seen years when there were 24 applicants to as few as five.

"We may have to prepare for a scholarship board if there are a lot of applicants," said Webster. "We check their finance information and try to give it to the people who need it most."

Although the grant is open to all active First Team Soldiers, Webster said that when junior enlisted Soldiers or their family members receive the scholarship, it gives him a special sense of giving to new generations of Soldiers that are the future of the Army.

"When you can give it out to that young specialist, I look at it as an investment in the Army family," he added.

Under this particular grant, the 1st Cav. Div. Association has awarded over $173,000 to 221 applicants.

Some of the applicants who received scholarship grants for the 2008-2009 school year include:

Aca,!Ac Jenny Bell, the spouse of Spc. Joshua Bell of Headquarters Company, Division Special Troops Battalion
Aca,!Ac Christina Bunyard, the spouse of Staff Sgt. Charles Bunyard of Troop A, 6th Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment
Aca,!Ac Dameka and Janel Daniels, the daughters of Command Sgt. Maj. James Daniels of Headquarters Troop, 4th Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment
Aca,!Ac Nina Moore, spouse of Staff Sgt. Adolfo Mora of Headquarters Company, DSTB
Aca,!Ac Stephanie Rabena, daughter of Col. William Rabena, Headquarters Company, DSTB
Aca,!Ac Jessica Reyes, spouse of Spc. Armando Reyes of Headquarters Company, DSTB
Aca,!Ac Brandi Waruch, spouse of Sgt. Ashley Waruch of Headquarters Company, DSTB
Aca,!Ac Cynthia Wood, spouse of Spc. Joshua Wood, Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion

With the 2008-2009 school year scholarships already awarded, the 1st Cav. Div. Association will not begin accepting applications again until the 2009-2010 school year for this particular scholarship program.
During the 2009-2010 school year, the active Soldier and family scholarship grants will increase from $1,000 to $1,200 per school year.

Families benefiting from the grant

For Dameka and Janel Daniels, students at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor and the daughters of Command Sgt. Maj. James Daniels of the 4th Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, being part of the active duty scholarship program has been especially meaningful. This year marks the second time that the Daniels sisters have received the scholarship.

"I'm very honored to receive it," said Dameka. "I was glad to hear they actually have a scholarship open to dependents. When I first heard about it, I filled out the application and wrote the essay. It was good to know there was a scholarship so close."

"It's really awesome and I'm so grateful that they did this," said Janel. "Most of our (scholarship) goes straight to books."

The two siblings are studying pre-med courses with the goal of becoming pediatricians and along with their busy days of doing school work, the Daniels still find time to work on extracurricular activities. Janel plays basketball for UMHB and serves as a member of the Biology Honor Society whereas Dameka's interests lie in both the Biology and Psychology Honor Societies at UHMB.

Janel explained that getting the scholarship has shown her that being part of a military family-- along with all the sacrifices which go along with it--has not been forgotten.

"I'm glad to know the Army takes care of its own," said Janel. "We're the children of Soldiers who work so hard everyday as well as having to always move from place to place and so it's good to know that someone cares."

Dameka, on the other hand, imparted some advice for First Team Soldiers or family members who might be apprehensive about applying for the scholarship.

"I would recommend for people who have never applied for this type of scholarship to listen to us and go ahead and apply, you have nothing to lose," said Dameka.

In contrast to the Daniels sisters, Brandi Waruch, a homemaker and the wife of Sgt. Ashley Waruch, a mechanic for the Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cav. Div., spends most of her time studying for her English major at UHMB to eventually become a teacher. The busy mother of a four-year-old son, Parker, said the grant she receives has helped with lab fees and books.

Brandi explained that the scholarship not only serves to give a little boost financially but also helps with peace of mind.

"This really helps us to make our lives and our families better and helps out financially in the long run," said Brandi. "It helps me mentally as well as financially. Mentally it gives me the confidence that I haven't had just knowing that I could actually go to school and succeed at what I've done so far."

For her husband Ashley, Brandi said the scholarship helps to relieve the worry that any additional costs for school don't have to come out of their pay check.

"He's relieved and definitely happy for me and really proud that I can apply for these scholarships and send in these letters to receive the help that we need," she said.

Other association scholarships

Besides the active duty Soldier and family member scholarship, the 1st Cav. Div. Association also works to bring educational assistance to family members of First Team troopers who have been killed in war or peacetime, become permanently or totally disabled or were involved in the battle of the Ia Drang Valley.

Under these two programs, the association has awarded $622,000 in grants to 437 applicants whose family members were killed or disabled and $149,000 in grants to 105 descendants of Soldiers who participated in the Ia Drang battle.

The scholarship for First Team troopers killed or permanently or totally disabled was begun in 1967 and was the first scholarship offered by the 1st Cav. Div. Association.

"It was originally for those killed in action but was later expanded to include totally disabled and because they couldn't work, we provided a scholarship to them and their kids," said Webster.

The Ia Drang Valley scholarship is for families of 1st Cav. Div. Soldiers who fought in the battle as well as for family members of Soldiers who were in units, such as field artillery units, that were attached to the First Team during the Vietnam battle.

"This scholarship was started by Joe Galloway and Lt. Gen. (ret.) Hal Moore from some proceeds from their book, 'We Were Soldiers Once...and Young,' said Webster. This program is separate from our foundation scholarships but our foundation trustees manage it."

Unlike the active duty program for active duty Cav. Soldiers and their families, the scholarships awarded to those whose family members have died or been disabled while serving the Cav. may be applied for all year round as opposed to just the beginning of the school year.

All three scholarships which the 1st Cav. Div. Association offers were specifically created by those who served in the division to give back to their fellow First Team troopers. This generous spirit, according to Webster, shows that not only does the Army give back to it's own but Cav. Troopers also live by the same adage.

"I think it reflects well on the people in this association that they want to do something like that," said Webster. "Members of the association are concerned with other Soldiers and their families because they've been there, they see what goes on in this community and they (association members) are there to support active duty Soldiers as much as they can."

"It's our duty to take care of those folks and we wish we could do more," added Webster.

For more information about the 1st Cav. Div. Association or its foundation scholarships, email or call 254-547-6537.