Brittanie and Patrick Hawkins

My name is Brittanie, and I am the widow of a KIA Ranger from 3/75. I write today to share my personal account of how the Lead the Way Fund assisted me during the single most painful, upheaving, and tragic situation of my life.

Some of you may remember the budget sequestration that occurred in OCT 2013. It was during that time that that my husband, Patrick, and four of his comrades [Cody, Joe, Jenny, and Jany (K9)] were killed, as well as several other soldiers were severely injured. I remember well-meaning friends calling and asking “how are you going to pay for the funeral if the government is shutdown?!” In my shock and devastation, that was something that I hadn’t even thought about… However, I did not have to fret for long, as my CAO reassured me that a couple of Ranger charities had offered their assistance and that I should just focus my energy on healing. The Lead the Way Fund was one of those charities. They were there from the beginning and continue to be a source of support and strength for me to this very day. They made me rest assure that my husband would receive a dignified funeral, and that he would never be forgotten. Additionally, they also made sure that I was given peace of mind until I was able to get up on my feet.

When time passed and this tragedy ebbed from the minds of many, the Lead the Way Fund’s generosity and sincerity did not fade away. Every year they host Jimmy’s Run Down Hero Highway, a 4.5 mile Run/Walk/Stroll and celebratory brunch in New York City. All proceeds from the day go to support the families of our US Army Rangers who have been killed, disabled or are currently serving in harm’s way around the world. In conjunction with The American Fallen Soldiers Project, they present memorial portraits to the families of two Fallen Rangers. This year, two years after the boys’ death, they honored Patrick and Cody by hosting our families for this incredible, cathartic event. They were altruistic, respectful of our pain, and took care of absolutely everything.

The Lead the Way Fund has my full confidence, support, and appreciation. I find it most important to note that its founders, Jim and Mary Reagan, founded this organization in memory of their son, Jimmy, who was killed by an IED in Iraq in 2007. This charity exists to honor their son, and it exists to honor the Fallen as well as the Wounded. From the little time that I have spent with the Reagan’s, the love of their son is so palpable. They have channeled this devastating tragedy into a means of serving our community and making their son proud.