We at Ivy Coach are sad today. Each and every year, we work with veterans on a pro bono basis as they seek to gain admission to the highly selective colleges of their dreams. It is work that we find immensely rewarding. It is our way of giving back to the brave men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedoms. We can’t help every veteran who comes to us, but we do try to help those whose life stories are compelling and inspirational, those whom we feel indebted to for their honorable service to the United States of America.
Some time ago, we helped a young man earn admission to Johns Hopkins University (we shall not name his name on this blog). His was a remarkable story. He shared with us about his service in the United States Air Force in Afghanistan and in the Korean DMZ. He shared with us how he earned the Air Force Commendation Medal. He shared with us his story of growing up in foster care with a mother addicted to drugs and how he was inspired to enlist in the military by his brother, who gave his life in service to America and is interred at Arlington. He shared with us letters from a United States Senator he interned for to advance the cause of caring for our veterans upon their return, many of whom suffer from PTSD.
His story was exceptionally moving. Maybe too exceptionally moving. Some time ago, an organization known as Guardian of Valor approached us and informed us that not all of what he told us was true — as an investigative piece they published yesterday so details. Was some of his story true? Yes. He did serve honorably in the United States Air Force. He did serve overseas. His brother, a United States Marine, did die in service to his country and he is interred at Arlington. We had read his brother’s story before we agreed to work with him, in which he was cited as a surviving relative. We had asked him for his military ID. But do we investigate military personnel records? No. We took him at his word, as we take all veterans at their word. So too did a United States Senator, Senator John Boozman of Arkansas. So too did many of the universities that offered him admission.
The funny thing is, after reading this investigative piece, it seems that he did honorably serve his country. It’s just that he didn’t think this was enough. He had to fool the world into thinking that he was more decorated than he actually was, that he served in more places than he did. It reminds us of stories we hear about folks who wear Congressional Medals of Honor and Silver Stars that they did not themselves earn to military funerals. This is quite sad to us, but we do firmly believe in the power of redemption and we believe, and hope, that this young man will work to right his wrongs now and in the future. Redemption can be a powerful thing.
While we are saddened today with this news, we also wish to reaffirm Ivy Coach’s years-long commitment to helping America’s veterans earn admission to the colleges of their dreams on a pro bono basis. Our commitment to these brave men and women remains steadfast and unwavering. The Israeli-born son-in-law of Ivy Coach’s Founder was a cousin of Elie Wiesel, a man who — through his prose — became a voice for the voiceless, a man who seared into the world’s collective conscience the story of the Holocaust so that future generations would never repeat the horrors of history. Elie Wiesel died this past week but he was a man who devoted his life to issues of human rights. He was a man who despite seeing the worst of humanity still, to quote a victim of the Holocaust, Anne Frank, “believe[d] that people are really good at heart.” Hers are words that echo through the ages. We too believe in the overwhelming goodness of people and we will continue to try to help as many veterans each and every year as we can. We will continue to take them at their word.