On the night of her 21st birthday in Annapolis, MD, Theresa met Landon Jones, the man who would become a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, her husband and the father of her two children. 

Together, Theresa and Landon moved from Maryland to Japan to Florida and finally to California, living the quintessential military family life where no single place is ever home for too long. With Landon’s frequent deployments and workups, Theresa became a dedicated stay-at-home mom for their two boys, Anthony, 8, and Hunter, 2, offering them stability in the midst of frenetic military life.

“Our plans for our children were for them to value family and friends, to get an education and to be successful,” said Theresa, who had experienced the struggle of pulling together loans, grants, scholarships and work to afford a college education.

Settling in San Diego, the Jones family sent LCDR Landon Jones off to what would unknowingly be his last deployment in 2013. At the time, Anthony was just 6 years-old, while Hunter was only two-and-a-half months.

As his detachment was heading back to the United Sates after nearly nine months deployed, LCDR Jones’ ship was called back in the wake of the crisis in Syria.

Just two weeks before he was due to return home, Jones was killed in a tragic accident while landing his helicopter aboard a Navy ship. A wall of water from a ship maneuver crashed into his rotors, sending the helicopter crashing to the deck and bouncing into the water.

The bodies of Landon Jones and his copilot were never recovered.

LCDR Jones’ death exemplifies the persistent risk involved in serving in the armed forces, as well as how quickly a mother and wife of two can join the ranks of the widows and single mothers who have lost their patriot in the line of duty.

Today, Jones remains strong for her boys, who will surely feel the void of their father as they grow and strive to make him proud through academic and personal success.

“There is a lot of uncertainty that Gold Star families face in terms of mental health, emotional health and fiscal health,” shared Jones.

“I look at my kids and think, ‘They are okay now, but will they be okay 10 years from now?  Will they have to continue to sacrifice for the rest of their lives because of the situation we’re in?’”

These struggles and questions are common ones for more than 20,000 children and spouses who have lost a loved one in the line of duty over the past three decades. So many took on roles like Theresa’s to manage a family while their spouse is deployed, and so many are left to start life again by putting the pieces back together.

The compounding difficulties of circumstances like these are just one of the many reasons that Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation strives to ensure an education for those left behind.

“I learned about Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation through a fellow widow who gave me a list of organizations that could help benefit my family. Many people think that you are set with the benefits that are received, but little do they know how untrue that is,” Theresa said.

Indeed, the gap is services can be more burdensome that people realize, especially when it comes to education and college. Though Anthony and Hunter are still young, Children of Fallen Patriots is there to make sure that when the time comes, both of these boys can attend college affordably, honoring their father’s sacrifice and realizing the dreams he had for them.

“To know that there is an organization out there who cares about my children and does not want them to be limited in their education because of the unfortunate hand we’ve been dealt is very comforting.”