It was a triumph over a tragedy both personal and national.
In a heartwarming story out of Columbus, Ohio, the widow of a soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq six years ago found a way to honor his memory and help others.
Jenna Grassbaugh, herself a veteran, made a donation to Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, where she is a second-year student.
“Widowed at 22, Jenna Grassbaugh struggled through her grief, trying to find a balance between holding on and moving on,” according to a recent story in The Columbus Dispatch. “Nearly six years later, she thinks she has found a fitting way to move forward: The second-year law student at Ohio State University has donated $250,000, half of her husband’s life-insurance benefit, to the Moritz College of Law to fund an effort to help veterans.”
The donation will be the initial funding for the Capt. Jonathan D. Grassbaugh Veterans Project, through which law students, aided by professional lawyers, will provide legal assistance to veterans returning from deployment. Ohio State University officials say they intend to raise a matching $250,000 to bring the total for the project to $500,000.
“When I thought about something that Jon would be proud of, this was it,” Jenna Grassbaugh, now 28, told the newspaper. “It was almost like a no-brainer.
“This can make a difference for a lot of people, and that is the best way to perpetuate his legacy.”
“She’s awe-inspiring,” the paper quoted law school Dean Alan Michaels as saying. “It makes you want this (project) to be fantastic and to really make the difference that we’re hoping it will.”
The $500,000, if the full amount were to be obtained, would pay for more than 2,000 hours of legal help in the 2013-14 academic year.
“The idea is for students to work under the supervision of lawyers,” The Dispatch story stated.
Col. Duncan Aukland, the judge advocate for the Ohio National Guard, who helped the widow in creating the project said that many returning veterans can’t afford quality legal assistance and often aren’t aware of all their rights.
“We have unmet needs,” he told the newspaper. “Certainly, people can go to the private sector and pay an attorney, but, on the other hand, there are people who have legitimate problems that are in some way related to their military services that deserve our help, and there aren’t enough resources currently existing to get them there.”
“It’s taken six years for me to say out loud, but I think I’ve finally been able to achieve a level of happiness and peace,” Jenna Grassbaugh said. “And I’m proud of that.”