Sentinels of Freedom serve as support system for veterans
Marine Corps Cpl. Brandon Rumbaugh lost his legs two years ago while rushing to aid a fellow Marine who had stepped on a roadside bomb in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
When Rumbaugh grabbed a stretcher and ran toward Lance Cpl. Richie Chavis, he stepped on another bomb.
The blast blew off his left foot. Surgeons amputated his mangled right leg.
After 18 months of treatment in military hospitals, “a couple of angels” from Butler County contacted Rumbaugh, offering financial support, housing, a computer for school, furniture and appliances through a group they started in 2007.
“I was kind of nervous about coming home. ... I didn't have anything,” said Rumbaugh, 23, a Uniontown native who also served in Iraq.
“That took a load off my mind, big time.”
Rumbaugh does not regret trying to help Chavis, who lost both legs.
“Both of us lived. If I had hesitated, my friend may have died,” Rumbaugh said.
The help came from Sentinels of Freedom of Western Pennsylvania, founded by Bea and Doug Miller of Valencia.
The Millers learned about the national Sentinels of Freedom Foundation in 2004 at a real estate convention in Denver. Mike Conklin of San Ramon, Calif., founded the nonprofit when one of his three Army Ranger sons was wounded in Iraq.
The grass-roots program helps veterans with severe service-related injuries “who have the aptitude, attitude and drive to become independent and successful members of society.”
Recipients of its four-year scholarships are called “sentinels” in honor of their sacrifice and commitment to guarding America's freedoms.
Rumbaugh is a freshman business major at Penn State University's Fayette campus and plans to start a nonprofit to aid children with disabilities.
It costs about $100,000 to support a veteran for the four years, Bea Miller said. Her group is working to raise money for another sentinel it hopes to support.
“We have to make certain that we have the money available,” she said.
World War II veterans such as Warren Goss, 87, of Sewickley want to make sure that happens. A one-man publicity machine, Goss talks up the program at gatherings of veterans groups, schools and clubs around the region.
“Everywhere I go,” said Goss, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. “They need help. ... That's what we want to do.”
Through another organization, Help Our Military Heroes, Rumbaugh received an adaptive vehicle. He hopes to move into a house that Homes for Our Troops would build this year.
“It's a real team effort,” said Mark Bozek, a Marine Corps veteran who took over team leader responsibilities at Sentinels of Freedom with his wife, Elaine.
Starting the program took a lot of work by the Millers.
“It's for a good cause. ... We owe them everything,” said Bea Miller, 67. “These young fellows are giving up so much for us.”
Members of the organization met with Rumbaugh while he was hospitalized in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
“Brandon is amazing. (For) a guy who lost both his legs, he's self-motivated, so energized,” Bozek said.
The group will interview potential scholarship candidates soon.
“If they're interested in us, we're pretty much interested in them. It's really a mutual decision,” Bea Miller said.
Craig Smith is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Contempt citation sought by state against Highmark for alleged violation of deal with UPMC
- VA promotion for administrator stuns legislator
- Canadians more fearful, aware after ‘very rare’ attack in Ottawa
- Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office asked to prosecute case alleging assault of Allegheny County assistant district attorney
- Prosecutors say cyanide-death defendant Ferrante tested toxin on mice to gauge effect on human
- Newsmaker: Mary Barkhymer
- Peduto, Harris compromise on $1.6M for North Side community center
- Savvy Service Employees International Union ‘keeps light on’
- Police arrest 8, cite more than 2 dozen after riots in Morgantown
- Ross brothers ordered to pay fine, remove debris from Christmas display
- Pittsburgh police officers start wearing video cameras