One of the constant reminders of the cost of endless wars is the human toll they exact. This is not just confined to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, but to their families too. Every time a warrior is either killed or seriously wounded in battle, his or her family is left to pick up the pieces. Oftentimes, they are unprepared, mentally, or financially to handle the crisis. 

Troops in the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), who are the tip of the spear for our military operations overseas in about 100 or more countries, face the danger more than any others. Special operations troops make up less than five percent of the force but have been paying the ultimate price in far greater numbers than the conventional troops: In the past few years, SOF accounted for about 75 percent of the casualties. 

But they can take solace in the fact that, if they indeed pay the ultimate price, there is the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) to take care of their families. The SOWF supports the families of our fallen and severely wounded Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps special operations personnel. While the different services have their own foundations — for example, the SEALs and Green Berets have excellent foundations that help the service members and their families in times of need — the SOWF is there for all members of the services that serve under the SOCOM umbrella. had the opportunity to sit down with the President and CEO of SOWF, Clayton Hutmacher, and speak about the outstanding work that SOWF does for the families of SOF. Hutmacher is a retired Major General who commanded at every level of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. So he is very familiar with the realities of the situation. 

Hutmacher also explained that if conventional troops are assigned to a SOF unit during deployment, that they are covered as well. He mentioned the recent tragedy of Shannon Kent, the Navy intelligence specialist who was assigned to a Special Forces unit and was killed by a suicide bomber. Her children are now covered through SOWF for their education.

SOWF was born 40 years ago, out of the ashes of the catastrophe at Desert One, during the failed Iran rescue mission “Operation Eagle Claw.” The foundation has grown every year since then.

SOWF is proactive. Within 60 days of being notified of a death or serious injury by the Care Coalition at SOCOM, SOWF reaches out to the families and immediately puts them into the database. “There is no long application process,” Hutmacher said. “Once we enter a family into the system, they’re in.”

The foundation provides full scholarships to the surviving children of any special operator that has been killed in the line of duty. It also offers pre-kindergarten education and home professional tutoring, academic guidance counseling, college application preparation, and visits to college campuses. It also offers classes for students to better prepare them for the rigors of an active and busy college workload. The foundation pays a stipend for internships and also has a referral service for internships.