By Gilbert Baez, WRAL reporter

Harnett County, NC- The cost of a college education can be overwhelming, with $1.4 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the United States, according to the Student Loan Report. One Overhills Elementary School first grader is guaranteed a college scholarship thanks to his father, who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the United States.

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Latoya Bell cherishes the memories of her late husband, Sgt. Russell Bell, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division who died in August 2012 when an improvised explosive device, or IED, exploded in Afghanistan.

“They were out recovering, as far as I understand, and it was my husband and another soldier who were killed at the same time,” Latoya Bell said.

Their son, Gage, was a year old at the time. Now, the focus is on the future Bell and her late husband were planning for their son.

“I know one thing that was important to me is I want to make sure Gage goes to college because that’s what we talked about,” Latoya Bell said.

That dream is going to come true thanks to the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, which has provided scholarship assistance to nearly 1000 children of fallen military heroes since 2002.

“I’m going to be in college when I’m big enough to be in college,” Gage said.

Ninety-seven percent of those killed in action are men, leaving behind single mothers who are left struggling to save for their children’s college education.

Latoya Bell was encouraged to apply for scholarship money for Gage through the foundation when her son was only an infant. She recently learned the organization is going to provide the now 6-year-old with scholarship money when the time comes.

“When you lose a spouse, you think ‘I’m the only person that cares,’ but it’s nice to know other people care, not only about the spouse but as well as the children,” Latoya Bell said.