Justin Mariano is the son of U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Jude Cruz Mariano. Justin vividly remembers a firm knock on the front door and the fear in his mother’s eye when three uniform men stood before her and asked if they could speak in private. It was February 2004 and the Mariano family learned their beloved father and husband was killed in a motor vehicle accident while on duty in Qatar.
Justin remembers understanding this meant his he had to become the man of the house. He understood it was now up to him to set a good example for his brother and sister. “I had to mature faster than most kids my age, and I was determined to become the role model my family needed.”
Justin believes his family would not have survived without the support of others and organizations like Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation (Fallen Patriots). He encourages other Gold Star kids to remember there is nothing wrong with asking for help.
“I turned the tragedy in my life into a positive by living in memory of who my father wanted me to become: a person who has patience and perseverance in frustrating situations, love and acceptance to those in need, and faith in God and loved ones,” Justin explained.
With the help of Fallen Patriots, Justin is studying biology and global health at University of California – Berkeley. He plans to become a medical doctor.
Fallen Patriots helps bridge a $32,000 funding gap between government assistance programs and the cost of a four-year degree. Nearly 20,000 dependents have been left behind by troops killed in the line of duty over the past 35 years. Fallen Patriots is working to identify and support every child in need through raising funds and awareness of the mission. To learn more, visit www.fallepatriots.org