Military Family Honored By Chiefs, UMKC in a Way They Won't Soon Forget

The Chiefs planned the moment as a surprise

The first step was finding the right family. That was Fred Galvin's job.

Galvin, a retired Marine Corps Major and Gold Star family coordinator, began to conduct research on how to select a family that would benefit the most from a $50,000 scholarship from the University of Missouri- Kansas City (UMKC).

"The Kansas City Chiefs had mentioned really wanting to do something very unique and special for the military," Galvin said. "They wanted this to be a really special moment and they wanted to also have it be a surprise."

He set off looking for the perfect Gold Star Family, or a family that has lost a service member to combat operations or training exercises.

The Gold Star mother had to have more than one child so that there would be a younger sibling who could benefit from the award. A fallen soldier's G.I. Bill is passed on after his or her death in action, but to only the eldest child or spouse.

This family also had to be made up of Missouri residents, since Kansas provides full scholarships to all Gold Star Families if they go to a state university.

"When [a family member] is killed, it really affects the family for a lifetime," Galvin said. "We were looking for something very life changing in a positive way to counter that."

According to the United States Department of Defense, in May of 2015, more than 217,000 active, reserve, retirees and military dependents live within a 140-mile radius of Arrowhead Stadium.

The 217,000 people include the families of fallen Military members: mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters.

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Then Galvin came across the Gist Family.

In January of 2007, Sergeant Milton Gist, Jr. was killed in action in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. He was part of the 1st Infantry Division.

"He was a great soldier," said Army Major General Wayne Grigsby. "He came from Task Force 177, the Steel Tigers. That was my sister Battalion when I was a Battalion Commander, so I was there as an operations officer when he was killed. Everything out there is very threatening, but this kid was a great soldier and he did a great job."

Milton left behind his mother, Anginette Morgan, his wife, Rah, and two children: a 4-year-old daughter, Jendayah, and 1-year-old son, Jakweli.

Jendayah, now 12 years old, will receive her father's GI Bill benefits, but this left Jakweli, now 9 years old, and his widowed mother to pay for his education.

"It's really a story of overcoming the odds," Galvin said. "Here's a mother who lost her husband when she had two young children. If you look at the background of that mother, Rah is a single mother who is homeschooling two children and getting her Master's degree, so she is not going to let these children have the option of failing.

"She's very motivated and an inspirational woman, and she has the mindset like they do in the military or in a professional football team—that she is not going to fail her family."

Galvin met with Mel Tyler, the Vice Chancellor of student affairs and enrollment management at UMKC to pitch his ideas. He was met with a resounding yes.

"Jakweli has exceptional goals and aspirations," Galvin said. "He wants to work for NASA and he is going to make the most of it. I don't have any doubt in my mind that he will be a success or that he's going to go on and do even greater things.

"They're shooting for the stars—literally."

Rah has set a very high bar for her two children through their home schooling and wants Jendayah and Jakweli to take college courses in high school.

But perhaps the best part is she no longer has to do it alone.

UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton, along with 1st Infantry Division Commander Major General Grigsby, presented Rah with a four-year, $50,000 scholarship to the college—a memorial scholarship in the name of Sergeant Milton Gist, Jr.

"That was the most unexpected thing," Rah said. "It means that his legacy will continue."

Not only will Jakweli be able to attend college and pursue his dreams, but he will also stay in the area, so his mother can watch him succeed every step of the way.

As for Jendayah, she has set her sights on becoming a famous actress.

"All of this means so much," Rah said. "It means that people recognize the sacrifice Milton and all of the others have made. I really enjoyed seeing all of the service salutes and seeing all of the service men and women being honored. It was so beautiful."

Jakweli isn't sure where he'll put his father's honorary scholarship certificate, but he certainly has plenty of time to find the perfect place. And who knows—maybe when he becomes a rocket scientist, he'll put that new certificate next to the one that made it all possible.

Around Rah's neck sits a dog tag with an engrained picture of her husband on it—not only a certificate of her own, but a reminder of the lives they both fought to provide for their children.

A look into the Chiefs Salute to Service events at Arrowhead Stadium during the Chiefs game against the Chargers.

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