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The life of an athlete is laced with hard work, discipline and consistency.  These three traits are necessary to achieve success in numerous areas of life, but it is through the physical competition of sports where these characteristics truly shine.  Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation is proud to introduce you to some scholars who have learned how to excel as both student and athlete during college.

Boston Gilbert – Soccer

Boston Gilbert began playing soccer competitively after his father, U.S. Air Force Major Troy Gilbert, passed away in 2006.  He says his Dad introduced him to the game at an early age and they would kick the ball around a neighborhood park.  “Since his passing, knowing that his spirit is always with me provides me with motivation to work as hard as I can at the game I love,” Boston said.  “I seek to honor his legacy by committing to become the best version of myself both on and off the field.”  Boston considers soccer to be a gift the Lord delivered when he desperately needed something to cling to after his father passed. “Soccer served as an escape from the madness that surrounded me and has been a constant theme in my life since.” 

Boston is now pursuing a degree in sports management at Southern Methodist University.  He was a member of the soccer team until he was derailed by an injury.  “Being a college athlete ushers in mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual challenges,” he explained. “Knowing that the Lord has brought me through and healed me from a traumatic event early on in my life assures me that He will continue to carry me through any challenges that being a college athlete may bring.”  Boston aspires to work in professional sports and says he’s forever grateful for Fallen Patriots’ support.  “Fallen Patriots has impacted me by giving me the opportunity to attend a great university, but more importantly, they have provided me with encouragement and support to go and pursue these goals.”

 

Aaron Westhusing – Basketball

Aaron Westhusing chose to attend Averett University because of the opportunity to play basketball for the Cougars.  His father, U.S. Army Colonel Theodore Westhusing inspired him to love all sports at a young age.  “He used to practice with my every day since I was two years old,” Aaron said.  Colonel Westhusing was a West Point professor who volunteered to serve in the Iraq War, then died in 2005.  Through this tragedy, Aaron and his younger brother Anthony stayed focused on their late father’s mantra.  “Westhusings never quit,” he told The Mountaineer.  “It stuck, and we always got right back up whenever we got knocked down.”

Aaron completed three seasons playing guard for the basketball team and was also a member of the men’s tennis and cross-country teams.  He earned USA South Academic All-Conference honors in 2016 in both cross country and basketball.  Moreover, he was a Dean’s Merit Scholar.  Aaron graduated with a degree in education and is now a seventh-grade math teacher, where he coaches soccer and basketball.  “Fallen Patriots’ scholarship has given me the ability to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, as my father once was.”

 

Rachel Rodriguez – Swimming

Rachel Rodriguez began swimming for the varsity team at age eleven.  Her father, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Trinidad Rodriguez Jr. motivated her to always do her best and pushed her to succeed.  “Swimming has honestly taught me so many important life lessons,” she said.  “My Dad attended every practice and swim meet he could.  I loved him for that because not only was he my biggest fan, but he taught me how to care for others, show respect, and how to work hard to achieve my goals.” 

When Staff Sergeant Rodriguez Jr passed away, it was difficult for Rachel to continue competing without her number one fan there.  “It took a little while, but eventually I got back to where I was, started swimming for myself, broke two records and was named captain,” Rachel said.  “My Dad might not be here physically, but he never left my heart or mind.  Everyday I think of him and try to live my life to make others better.”  

Rachel recently graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in political science.  She plans to attend law school next. “I want to make a difference in my local community and help military families or soldiers in any way that I can. Being in the military was an important part of my life, and I would love to be able to give back to the organizations that have helped me in my life.”