ALEXANDRIA, VA – Thursday night, Alexandria resident Colleen Rose was named a recipient of the Vigiano Family Hope and Courage award at the 10th annual Hope for The Warriors Got Heart Give Hope Gala in Washington, DC.
Rose was one of three Vigiano Family Hope and Courage Award honorees, presented by award-winning actor/humanitarian Gary Sinise and retired U.S. Marine Col. Barney Barnum Jr. She was recognized for her journey as a military spouse, caregiver and breast cancer survivor.
Named in honor of the Vigiano family, who lost both of their sons in the September 11th attacks, the Hope and Courage awards are presented to service members and military family members who have demonstrated both hope and courage in the face of extraordinary circumstances.
“As the daughter of a Newark, New Jersey, firefighter who worked at the Trade Center for two weeks after 9/11, to even have my name listed next to his (John Vigiano) is such an honor,” said Rose. “I grew up in a first responder family, attending fundraisers for other firefighters. We took care of our work families as if they were our own. I married a Marine.
“Now, as both a caregiver and care recipient, to receive an award associated with a man (Vigiano) who would take the shirt off his back to put it on yours is overwhelming. His legacy, that of his sons, and the family that already sacrificed so much and still that carries on the mission to honor our nation’s heroes, lives on through all of us and the efforts of Hope For The Warriors,” she added.
Real Challenges and Triumphs
Marrying her U.S. Marine husband, John, days before deployment, the couple spent their first night living together as a married couple at a hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Meeting five years earlier, the couple had dated long distance through deployments and recruitment trainings for John and college and grad school for Colleen. The couple had planned a large wedding ceremony for when John returned and instead, together, spent months in Texas working through countless surgeries and rehabilitation.
Before moving to North Carolina to join John’s unit, the couple took part in a parade aboard a float honoring wounded service members and their spouses. Tragically, the float was hit by a train, injuring John and Colleen and 14 others, while taking the lives of four warriors on board.
Years later, the couple faced another setback as Colleen was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy and is now cancer free.
Today, Colleen works with children as an occupational therapist and is working toward legislation allowing student loan forgiveness for caregivers through her caregiver fellowship with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation while focusing on growing a family, a possibility supported by Hope For The Warriors in the wake of her cancer diagnosis.
“There are certain people you encounter in life that bring more to you than you can ever bring to them,” said Robin Kelleher, Hope For The Warriors co-founder and CEO. “Colleen is the perfect example of this. As we’ve worked with Colleen and John through some trying times in their lives, they have shown us their commitment to one another, resiliency in hard situations, a positive attitude and a beautiful sense of humor to life’s bumpy journey. We’re grateful to know Colleen and honored to help their family grow.”
For more information on Hope For The Warriors and its 10th Annual Got Heart Give Hope Gala, visit hopeforthewarriors.org.
About Hope For The Warriors: Founded in 2006, Hope For The Warriors is a national nonprofit dedicated to restoring a sense of self, family and hope for post 9/11 veterans, service members and military families. Since its inception, Hope For The Warriors has served over 23,200 through a variety of support programs focused on clinical health and wellness, sports and recreation and transition. One of the nonprofit’s first programs, Military Spouse and Caregiver Scholarships, has awarded over 135 scholarships to caregivers and families of the fallen. In addition, Run For The Warriors has captured the hearts of over 25,500 since 2010. For more information, visit hopeforthewarriors.org, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.