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A Graduation Gift I Will Never Forget

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I was pregnant with my first child when my husband, Andy, was injured in Iraq.  He came home in a wheelchair in December 2009 after bravely serving our country in the U.S. Army.  Although I had wanted to go back to school to get my degree, we just didn’t have the financial resources to make it happen.

That’s when I found out about a scholarship for wounded veterans and their spouses at Colorado Technical University (CTU).  After applying for the scholarship and gaining admission to CTU, I started taking classes online to earn my Associate’s Degree of Science in General Studies.  With a lot of hard work, dedication, and financial assistance from CTU, I was able to go back to school and achieve my goal.

When I earned my degree this past spring, CTU contacted me and asked if I would be attending my graduation ceremony in Colorado in June.  Since I live in Texas and didn’t have the money to spend on airfare, I reluctantly told them that I would not be attending.  I had no idea that a nonprofit organization and Southwest Airlines would ultimately make it possible for me and my husband to attend this special event.

Ashley Toppin and husband

The Yellow Ribbon Fund is an organization that helps care for injured service members and their families, including spouses, parents, and other relatives who become the primary caregivers for their loved ones as they recover from traumatic injuries.  From the moment family members are reunited with their injured warrior, the Yellow Ribbon Fund provides assistance to cover expenses that are not paid for by the military, such as hotel bills, taxi fares, rental cars, and even airline tickets.

Through a partnership with Southwest Airlines, the Yellow Ribbon Fund secured tickets for me and my husband to fly from Texas to Colorado at no cost to us.  Graduating with my Associate’s Degree was an amazing feeling, but being able to receive my diploma in person made the whole experience even better!

Ashley Toppin graduating

Walking across the stage at my graduation was beyond exhilarating.  I’m so happy that I got the chance to celebrate my accomplishment, and even happier that my incredibly supportive husband could be there with me.  Thank you, Southwest and the Yellow Ribbon Fund, for giving me a graduation gift I will never forget.