On July 31, 1992, an E-2C assigned to VAW-126 was lost at sea. All five men died and four children were left fatherless. Shortly thereafter, scholarship funds were set up for the children by the families; however, a year later the attorney advised them to close the accounts as there was not enough money in them to make it worthwhile to continue them.
Captain Ed Caffrey, who was Commodore of the East Coast Wing, was saddened by that situation and thought that there must surely be a way that the E-2C community could come to their aid.
A few months later, on March 26, 1993, an aircraft assigned to VAW-124 crashed while attempting to land aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt and again all five men were killed. Four more children lost their fathers, including a baby boy who was born 15 days after the accident.
Commodore Caffrey believed that it was time for the community to take care of its own. He shared his concerns with his wife, Rosemary, and the CO and XO spouses. As a result of these conversations on July 3, 1993, The VAW Officers’ Wives’ Association and the VAW Memorial Scholarship Fund were established. The purpose of the fund was to honor those men and any other member of the VAW community who died while in a duty status, to let the spouses and children know how deeply that sacrifice was appreciated and to help provide for the children’s higher education as their parent would have wanted.
From its inception, the fund has always been for all members of the community on both coasts and in Japan. The fund was to be managed by the VAW Officers’ Wives’ Association.
The first major fund raiser for the Memorial Fund was a cookbook sponsored by VAW-120. The idea for the cookbook came from a young wife named Shelly Bolt. Shelly will tell you that it was a group project, but in reality it was a labor of love by Shelly who worked many, many hours gathering and organizing recipes. The final results, The Heart of the Hawkeyes, raised over $5000 for the fund. The VAW-120 Officers’ Spouses’ Club has also published a cookbook to benefit the fund. In total, four cookbooks have been published.
Over the years there have been many other fundraisers. At the East Coast Hawkeye Greyhound Ball raffles are held by the Association with the proceeds going to the Memorial Fund. The officers’ spouses’ clubs have done many different kinds of fundraisers, including bake sales, silent auctions, flower sales, yard sales, and t-shirt sales.
Donations are also sought from corporations and charitable groups. Donations have been received from Northrop Grumman and Wyle Labs.
In the spring of 1998, the CO and XO spouses on the East Coast decided to pursue getting tax exempt status so that the money in the fund could be invested. After several communications with the IRS, tax exempt status was finally achieved in January 1999. The money from the fund is now being invested under the guidance of Mike Borza. Mike is a former E-2 NFO and is now a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch. He has generously offered to donate all his services.
During the same time period it was decided that it was time to update the original Memorial Fund Resolution and the by-laws of the Association. The name of the fund was changed to the VAW-VRC Memorial Scholarship Fund to reflect the addition of C-2 squadrons to the Wing. The name of the Association was changed to VAW/VRC Officer’s Spouses’ Association (VVOSA). Other small changes were made in order to abide by IRS regulations. The biggest change, however, involved the addition of merit scholarships to the Memorial Fund. The original money which was donated for the memorial scholarship fund remained intact, but it was voted that beginning in 1999 no more than 50% of the money raised during the previous year could be given out to dependents of past and present service members of the VAW/VRC community in the form of merit scholarships. The rest of the money will be added to the funds already set aside for the children of those who have died. In 1999, three $400 merit scholarships were awarded. In 2007, there were nineteen applicants, and seven dependents were selected. The fund awarded one $2000 scholarship and five $1500 scholarships; additionally, a combined First Command scholarship of $1500 was awarded. In 2010, we awarded $9,500 in merit scholarships. In 2012, $20,000 was awarded in merit scholarships. From 2013 through 2015 approximately $30,000 has been awarded yearly.
In 2013, the Captain Ed Caffrey Memorial Merit Scholarship was added as the highest winning merit scholarship. Captain Caffrey was a man of great courage and integrity who showed unlimited commitment to service. In honor of his memory, a scholarship will be awarded to an applicant who has demonstrated academic excellence, personal integrity and a commitment to community service. It is our hope that this scholarship will forever ensure Captain Caffrey’s legacy within our community by nurturing those same qualities in the recipient of the award.
At this time, there are three children who are eligible for the memorial scholarships. The fund is able to provide 100% of the average annual cost of college for each child.
The major emphasis in past years has been on fundraising. While that will continue to be the main focus, two other causes are also emphasized. The first is the continued growth of the VAW/VRC Officers’ Spouses’ Association (VVOSA). Up until about 1999, the Association consisted solely of the CO and XO spouses of the squadrons on the East Coast. Now membership is actively sought among spouses of present and past officers in the E-2/C-2 community. The purposes of the Association are to raise money for the Memorial Fund, dispense information, foster a feeling of “community,” and provide opportunities for networking and support. The second cause is to increase communication between East and West Coasts about the fund and develop ways for the entire VAW/VRC community to cooperate on this vital project.
Headquarters for the VAW/VRC Memorial Scholarship Fund is in Norfolk, Virginia. The day-to-day operation of the fund is handled by the officers of the VAW/VRC Officers’ Spouses’ Association (VVOSA). VVOSA is managed by a Board of Directors and the CO and XO spouses of the E-2/C-2 squadrons.
The VAW/VRC Memorial Scholarship Fund was founded during a very sad time for our community. Since that time many positive things have happened because of the fund. In the years to come, even more good things are certain to occur as our community continues to pull together.
The Memorial Scholarship Fund offers each of us the unique opportunity to contribute to a charity whose sole beneficiaries are members of our community. It also gives us the chance to all work together to achieve a common goal.