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In 2005, Laura Gomez-Clinton learned that her husband, SSG Juan Hernandez, had been injured while serving in Iraq. She spent the next two years by his side as he recovered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Though his physical wounds eventually healed, SSG Hernandez could not overcome his PTSD. He passed away in October 2009, leaving Laura to raise their children, Abby and Aaron.

Laura was suddenly a 26-year-old widow with two young children. She took the time to mourn, but quickly realized that she needed to take control of her life and provide for her children. She thought about the care and attention that her husband had received from the nursing staff at Walter Reed and decided that she, too, could offer that support to others.

In 2010, Laura enrolled in Emory University. With the assistance of a $3,000 Heartland 4 Heroes/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Laura is just a few months away from completing her Nursing degree. This May, she will graduate from Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing with her BSN.

Laura has excelled academically and has already been offered full-time employment in the Emergency Department of Spalding Regional Hospital and the OR at Emory University Midtown Hospital. She says, “The hardest part is behind me. I am so proud of my husband’s service and I know that he would be proud of what I have accomplished for our family. Knowing that I have the support of this scholarship means so much to me. Thank you!”

Laura is one of five scholars to receive the Heartland 4 Heroes/ThanksUSA scholarship for the 2013-2014 academic year. Heartland 4 Heroes and ThanksUSA will be holding their 2nd Annual Golf Tournament Fundraiser, in conjunction with Red Cloud Food Services, Inc. on April 7, 2014, at The Governor’s Club in Brentwood, Tennessee. 

Heartland 4 Heroes/ThanksUSA Scholarships benefit the spouses and children of those serving in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army located at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

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With the assistance of ThanksUSA scholarships totaling $9,000, Michelle Spradlin earned her degree from Tennessee Wesleyan College in 2012. Over the years, she has represented ThanksUSA scholars at outreach events and even contributed to this year’s ThanksUSA Treasure Hunt 9. Michelle is happy to share the following update with fellow ThanksUSA Alumni and Friends:

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Michelle & Eddie Spradlin

ThanksUSA has helped me fulfill more than my educational goals. During my husbands first deployment to Iraq, I was led to make a career change. I had worked in banking all of my adult life, but my calling was to work in the educational field.

ThanksUSA helped support me financially as I attained my degree to become a teacher. This is my second year in the classroom and I have the privelege of substituting for two long-term materninty leaves in the same grade. Actually, the classrooms are next door to each other. Some of the students I am working with this year, I had last school year in ESL and/or Math Intervention, which has been very helpful.

At the beginning of this school year, I was disappointed that I had not been hired to be a full-time classroom teacher, but it has worked out in my favor. My husband has recently returmed from the Share Initiative Program in Atlanta, Georgia. We are learning to make adjustments he needs to “really live” with PTSD, TBI and long term back issues. Working in the school system also allows me to be on our daughter, Kiley’s schedule, which I am very grateful for.

A way that Kiley and I have found to be able to cope with my husband’s injuries is to serve others. We have always spent time together doing mission projects at home. However over Christmas break, we went on our first international mission trip to Orphanage Emmanuel in Honduras. Not only was it an eye opening experience for a thirteen year old, but it was for me too.

I am grateful my husband is recovering from war related illnesses, we have each other, a home and live in a safe country. As my husband continues to improve, my daughter and I are planning to spend more time at the orphanage. This summer, I will volunteer to teach English in the orphanage school. I am currently taking the last college class needed to be a certified ESL (English Second Language) teacher.

Someday, I pray that my husband will be able to travel with me to do more international missions and perhaps adopt children. We always wanted more children, but due to deployments and his injuries, we were unable. I believe knowledge is power and having a formal education has fulfilled my dreams of being a teacher, being on our daughter’s schedule, to be home more than I was with my previous employer, and to be able to serve others. I am very thankful for ThanksUSA. It has allowed me to try to become the person that I want to be.

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Navy dependent Sarah Berg was awarded a $3,000 Stephen Curry/ThanksUSA scholarship for her first year of studies at the University of California: Davis. Although Sarah intends to major in Animal Biology, she will explore a variety of inter-related studies that will prepare her for future humanitarian endeavors.

“My goal in life is to go to third world countries and establish systems customized to the environment of the country so that the people can use aquaculture, the raising of aquatic animals for food, and agriculture in order to establish a sustainable source of nutrition. While feeding peoples’ stomachs, I also intend to nourish their souls through sharing with them the hope I have in the Lord.”

Sarah Berg

Sarah Berg petting one of the UC Davis milk cows that live behind her dorm. Sarah explained that this gentle Jersey was on a 60-day rotation of not producing milk.

Sarah Berg petting one of the UC Davis milk cows that live behind her dorm. Sarah explained that this gentle Jersey was on a 60-day rotation of not producing milk.
When she arrived on campus, Sarah began filling her free time by joining organizations that compliment her studies while helping the local community and campus. She joined the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority, and became an Aggie Ambassador.

As an Aggie Ambassador, Sarah promotes the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. One of the highlights of Sarah’s fall term was harvesting olives at UC Davis’s organic olive grove. She explains, “The olives I helped to harvest are now the famous UC Davis Estate Olive Oil.” So famous, that if you visit the UC Davis campus bookstore, you can purchase that olive oil.

More recently, Sarah joined the UC Davis Draft Horse and Driving Club. She is excited to share her progress saying, “I know how to drive a horse and buggy, but I don’t even know how to drive a car yet!” She mentioned that tractor driving lessons were on the agenda, so we’ll look forward to that update.

Wether she’s studying for exams, helping on a local farm, or encouraging future UC Davis students, Sarah has found a greater appreciation for her father’s military career. “I think all of this hard work has helped me to better understand and appreciate what it must have been like for my dad to work long hours and hard shifts on the submarine.” Her father, Senior Chief Michael Berg, USN (Ret), recently retired after twenty-three years of service.

The ThanksUSA team extends our thanks to Senior Chief Berg for his military service. We congratulate Sarah on receipt of her Stephen Curry/ThanksUSA scholarship and we hope that her eagerness for new experiences continues throughout her undergraduate years.

“I would like Stephen Curry and ThanksUSA supporters to know how thankful I am to them. Their contribution has allowed me to experience things here at UC Davis that I never would have dreamed I could do! All these wonderful things are preparing me for the work I intend to do in third world countries – teaching people how to raise fish and crops sustainably in order to be able to provide for themselves.”

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IMG_0848Congratulations to ThanksUSA alumni Shandiin Sam on her December graduation! Since 2010, Shandiin was awarded ThanksUSA scholarships totaling $9,000. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Microbiology from Arizona State University.

Shandiin had an exciting senior year at ASU, studying abroad in France and volunteering with the student-led health and development organization, Global Brigades.

As a member of ASU’s Medical & Dental Brigade, Shandiin travelled to Honduras where she assisted with patient triage, dispensing vitamins, and teaching children how to brush their teeth.

Shandiin reports that although the dental team spent about six hours each day treating patients, they just didn’t have enough time to see everyone. “As we would start to pack everything and have to cut-off triage, the dentist would try to get two or three more patients in before packing up.”

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Because of diet and lack of basic dental hygiene supplies like toothbrushes and toothpaste, the majority of patients were seen for tooth decay. In the United States, dentists typically attempt to save a tooth with a filling or cap. Shandiin explained that the majority of patients seen by Global Brigades volunteers preferred extraction and dentures because long-term care would be less costly and easier to maintain.

Shandiin admits that her time in Honduras was exhausting, but well worth the effort. Although she admits, “I could never be a dentist after shadowing him (the volunteer Global Brigades dentist). The human mouth seems more gruesome to me than a broken bone or surgery, but it was still a rewarding experience!”

With plans to attend medical school and travel the globe helping others, Shandiin will likely have a lifetime of rewarding experiences. She is currently seeking employment as a medical technologist while she prepares for the MCAT.

We love to hear from ThanksUSA Alumni and share updates like this! Current and past ThanksUSA scholarship recipients are encouraged to join the ThanksUSA Alumni and Friends Facebook page to connect with fellow scholars and the ThanksUSA team.

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NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING 2014 PRESENTED BY
SPRINT THIRD RETURNS ANNOUNCED

Stephen Curry Takes Over Second Place in West Backcourt Voting

Final Update before Balloting Concludes on Jan. 20

NEW YORK, Jan. 9, 2014 – LeBron James of the Miami Heat and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder lead their respective conferences, and are separated by only 21,854 votes, after the third returns of NBA All-Star Balloting 2014 presented by Sprint. James, the top overall vote-getter with 1,076,063 votes, is followed in the Eastern Conference by the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George. Durant (1,054,209) is followed in the Western Conference by the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant.

The 63rd NBA All-Star Game will be exclusively televised on TNT from New Orleans Arena on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. The All-Star Game, also broadcast live on ESPN Radio, will collectively reach fans in 215 countries and territories in more than 40 languages.

James, George (899,671) and the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony (702,869) pace the Eastern Conference’s frontcourt players. The Heat’s Dwyane Wade (718,109) and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving (652,522) lead Eastern Conference backcourt players.

Durant is joined in the frontcourt in the West by the Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard (509,116) and the L.A. Clippers’ Blake Griffin (500,964), with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love (483,031) making a strong push for a starting spot. Bryant (844,538) and the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (677,372) pace all Western Conference backcourt players.

Balloting concludes on Monday, Jan. 20, and starters will be announced live on TNT on Thursday, Jan. 23, during a special one-hour edition of the Emmy Award-winning pregame show Inside the NBA at 7 p.m. ET. The special will air prior to TNT’s exclusive doubleheader featuring the Los Angeles Lakers at the Miami Heat (8 p.m. ET) and the Denver Nuggets at the Portland Trail Blazers (10:30 p.m. ET). Reserves will be announced on Thursday, Jan.30, also on TNT.

NBA All-Star Balloting 2014 presented by Sprint gives fans around the world the opportunity to vote daily for their favorite players as starters for NBA All-Star Game 2014. This year, the NBA expanded social media voting to include Instagram. Fans can use Instagram to vote by posting an original photo, using #NBABallot and the player’s first and last name in the photo caption. Fans can vote for 10 unique players per day.

For the second year in a row, NBA fans can vote via social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and Sina Weibo and Tencent Microblog in China. Twitter voting allows fans to tweet a vote for 10 unique players each day throughout the All-Star balloting period. The tweet must include the player’s first and last name, along with hash tag #NBABallot. Facebook voting allows fans to comment on official league, team, or international NBA All-Star Facebook pages by commenting below the post with #NBABallot and the player’s first and last name. Voters can select 10 unique players per day.

NBA fans can also access the ballot and vote through the NBA Game Time and NBA Game Time from Sprint applications, available on Android and iOS. Fans can fill out one full ballot per day, through the NBA Game Time and NBA Game Time from Sprint application, the most comprehensive app in the marketplace for NBA fans.

There are several other ways fans can cast their votes as part of this season’s all-digital program including: in 11 languages on NBA.com/asb, through SMS voting by texting the player’s last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (“MYNBA”) or by visiting NBA.com/asb on any wireless device. Fans can vote for 10 different players per day, per phone number, via SMS voting by sending 10 separate SMS messages, each one with a different player’s last name. Message and data rates may apply. Voters can fill out one full ballot per day on nba.com/asb from a desktop or mobile browser.

NBA All-Star 2014 in New Orleans will bring together some of the most talented and passionate players in the league’s history for a global celebration of the game. TNT will televise the All-Star Game for the 12th consecutive year, marking Turner Sports’ 30th year of All-Star coverage. State Farm All-Star Saturday Night will feature Sears Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, and Sprite Slam Dunk. Other events at NBA All-Star 2014 will include the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, and NBA All-Star Jam Session. The 2014 game will mark the second NBA All-Star celebration in New Orleans. The city also hosted the event in 2008.

NBA ALL-STAR 2014 BALLOTING PRESENTED BY SPRINT

Eastern Conference

Frontcourt
1. LeBron James (Mia) 1,076,063
2. Paul George (Ind) 899,671
3. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 702,869
4. Roy Hibbert (Ind) 385,964
5. Chris Bosh (Mia) 304,986
6. Kevin Garnett (BKN) 164,021
7. Joakim Noah (Chi) 128,201
8. Andre Drummond (Det) 120,844
9. Tyson Chandler (NYK) 101,637
10. Jeff Green (Bos) 96,336
11. Luol Deng (Cle) 90,730
12. Carlos Boozer (Chi) 80,271
13. Paul Pierce (BKN) 72,581
14. David West (Ind) 61,612
15. Brook Lopez (BKN) 58,477

Backcourt
1. Dwyane Wade (Mia) 718,109
2. Kyrie Irving (Cle) 652,522
3. Derrick Rose (Chi) 323,099
4. John Wall (Was) 278,516
5. Ray Allen (Mia) 190,086
6. Rajon Rondo (Bos) 133,448
7. Deron Williams (BKN) 95,309
8. George Hill (Ind) 89,428
9. Lance Stephenson (Ind) 77,364
10. DeMar DeRozan (Tor) 68,985

Western Conference

Frontcourt
1. Kevin Durant (OKC) 1,054,209
2. Dwight Howard (Hou) 509,116
3. Blake Griffin (LAC) 500,964
4. Kevin Love (Min) 483,031
5. LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 404,793
6. Tim Duncan (Por) 385,342
7. Anthony Davis (NO) 223,956
8. Pau Gasol (LAL) 207,213
9. Andre Iguodala (GS) 192,616
10. Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 156,792
11. DeMarcus Cousins (Sac) 148,604
12. David Lee (GS) 141,509
13. Chandler Parsons (Hou) 135,387
14. Omer Asik (Hou) 101,372
15. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 91,859

Backcourt
1. Kobe Bryant (LAL) 844,538
2. Stephen Curry (GS) 677,372
3. Chris Paul (LAC) 651,073
4. Jeremy Lin (Hou) 471,980
5. James Harden (Hou) 338,788
6. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 260,499
7. Tony Parker (SA) 195,328
8. Damian Lillard (Por) 162,363
9. Klay Thompson (GS) 108,404
10. Ricky Rubio (Min) 97,265

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Frances KarnuthWhether you’re military or civilian, we’ve all had those overwhelming moments that just seem impossible to overcome. This week’s featured ThanksUSA scholar, Frances Karnuth, has a very inspirational outlook on those moments. “You can sit there and be overwhelmed, or you can get up and change the situation. Your goals are much more attainable than you think!”

A Coast Guard spouse and mother of six, Frances was awarded a $3,000 Pershing Square Foundation/ThanksUSA scholarship for her Psychology and Nursing majors. With the end goal of becoming a Nurse Practitioner, Frances is currently enrolled in both Regent University and Maryville University.

Over twenty years ago, Frances enrolled in a nursing program and was doing very well. Unfortunately, she had to take a medical leave of absence and during that time, the school closed. Although she was unable to complete the program, Frances says, “The desire to become a nurse never waned.”

Though a nursing degree was still her goal, family commitments took priority. Her husband, Franz, was beginning an active-duty career in the United States Coast Guard and the couple were starting their family.

When she was just three years old, the Karnuths’ eldest daughter, Janelle, was diagnosed with cancer. “This resulted in years of extensive chemotherapy and follow-up appointments.” Being a stay-at-home mom during those years provided the entire family with nurturing stability and consistency.

Frances has home-schooled each of her children. Over the years, she has grown to recognize different learning styles and study habits. Having to adjust a lesson plan or modify her teaching has had a very positive effect on her as a student. Frances explains, “I have a better understanding of how to adapt so that I can succeed.”

If her teaching success is any indication, Frances will have no problem succeeding as a student. Today, Janelle is a happy, healthy, young woman who is working towards a degree in Creative Arts Therapy. Son Josh is a lab technician at a package testing laboratory (he actually gets to blow things up!), while son Tim is a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. Younger children, Josiah, Eric, and Elisha still sit down and do homework at the same time as Mom. “They often see me working just a hard as they do. I learn–that’s my job!” In 2009, Franz retired from the Coast Guard after 22 years of service. He continues to serve our country as a civilian.

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Many military spouses contemplate returning to school. When asked if she had advice to offer, Frances said, “It’s easier if you’re flexible with your goals. I plan to accomplish my professional goal by working diligently towards completing smaller goals.”

Setting those smaller goals is certainly working to her advantage. Frances will earn her Associates Degree in Psychology this spring from Regent University and will transfer to Maryville as a full-time student seeking dual Bachelor degrees in Nursing and Psychology.  She explains, “By including both physical and psychological aspects to my training as a nurse practitioner, I will be better equipped to understand the medical needs of my patients.”

With encouragement from her loving family, the military community, and ThanksUSA supporters, Frances will continue to succeed. She is appreciative of the Pershing Square/ThanksUSA scholarship and says, “Your gift helps me financially and has provided a much-needed dose of emotional encouragement. It is wonderful knowing that others have faith in me. Thank you again–I won’t let you down.”

The ThanksUSA team extends our warmest wishes to all families, military and civilian, this Holiday season. We thank you for contributing to ThanksUSA scholarships in 2013 and encourage you to support the educational goals of military spouses, like Frances, by making your tax-deductible donation to ThanksUSA today.

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Craig ThurberIf you were to ask Craig Thurber about his lifelong goal, he may simply answer, “Be better.” With the assistance of a $3,000 Lockheed Martin/ThanksUSA scholarship, the Army National Guard dependent is attending Southwestern College where he is pushing himself to be a better student, a better athlete, and an all-around better person.

A natural athlete, Craig is pursuing a degree in Athletic Training. “I intend to utilize this degree and work as an Athletic Trainer while going to Physical Therapy school. I enjoy helping others and am excited to work in a health care/sports environment.” To compliment his studies, Craig is actively involved with various sports teams. He’s a linebacker for the Southwestern Moundbuilders and will play intramural basketball in the offseason.

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Craig with his biggest fans–his sisters!

Though sports and education are important to Craig, family is paramount. In 2006, Craig’s stepfather, MSG Bernard Deghand, was killed in the line of duty while serving in Afghanistan. Only ten years old at the time, Craig challenged himself to be a father figure to his youngest sister. He developed a drive to succeed and lead by example, a drive to “be better.”

Craig mentions that he would want his stepfather to be proud of the man he is becoming. “I honor his memory by kneeling and talking to him on the football field right before each game. I also have a photo of him in my dorm room. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.”

There is no doubt that MSG Deghand would be proud of Craig. He is succeeding as a scholar, an athlete, and a positive role model to his sister and fellow athletes. ThanksUSA is honored to award scholarships to deserving students like Craig Thurber.

“Thank you very much for supporting me and helping me to be better.” — Craig Thurber, Southwestern College class of 2017

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