Local attorney starts scholarship fund in vet's name

| 02 Nov 2017 | 04:05

— On November 5, 2017, Jackie O’Donnell whose law firm is located next door to the Sparta VFW Post #7248 in Sparta, will honor and celebrate military veterans and their families by establishing the Ralph Rojas Scholarship Fund.
“She has always been here to support us,” said VFW Commander Pete Litchfield about O’Donnell.
O’Donnell, a military brat, is the daughter of a retired Naval Intelligence Captain. She was born at Queen Kapiolani Hospital in Honolulu while her father served under Admiral Nimitz and provided him with the daily intelligence briefings during the war. Recently, she was able to return to Hawaii with her parents and her three sons, Ryan, Timothy and Matthew Dumbroff, to show them where she spent her younger years. Her father’s 50 year old ID allowed them access onto the Pacific Command Center at Makalapa Naval Station, which overlooks what is now Pearl Harbor.
“The pride and delight on my father’s face as he returned to the base where he served almost 50 years earlier will be a memory I will never forget," O'Donnell said. "I remember my dad in his 'dress whites' growing up and how when we went places, people saluted him. But I didn’t really understand it until much later in life.”
Military pride runs deep in O’Donnell’s family. Her cousins were Navy Seals and F-14 Naval Aviators, as well as Paratroopers. “Military men and women and their families, are some of the bravest and most selfless people I know,” she said.
Years ago, O’Donnell became increasingly aware of the number of veterans who were returning from war with Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Her law firm specializes in personal injury with a concentration in Traumatic Brain Injuries, and as O’Donnell grew increasingly troubled, she sought to find a way to help our veterans on a more local level.
“Things just kept happening in my life which encouraged me over and over to find a way to help," O'Donnell said. "During the summer, I met a Veteran who had lost his arm and leg while deployed, and he was in an adaptive bicycle raising money for other Veterans. We spoke for an hour, and I was awestruck by his strength and courage. That experience and the recent death of Ralph Rojas, gave me the idea for this Scholarship Foundation. I am awestruck by the endless determination and self-sacrifice which these veterans possess.”
The Ralph Rojas Scholarship Fund, which O’Donnell has begun, will allow the VFW to award an annual scholarship to military personnel or their family, in order to further their education. The scholarship is named after Korean War Veteran Ralph Rojas, who lived in Franklin with his wife Dolores, and who ran the Christmas tree sale for the VFW until his recent passing at 84 years old.
O’Donnell said “Ralph Rojas never came into my office without his VETERAN hat on. He was a kind, generous, altruistic man, and we miss him deeply here at my office. I keep waiting for him to pop in with his big smile. I know that he is smiling down from Heaven since that we are honoring him at the VFW. But, I know that he is also asking what all the fuss is about too. His legacy will go on."
Dolores Rojas, wife of Ralph Rojas said, “I am very surprised and honored that Jackie O’Donnell did this in memory of my husband Ralph. My family and I are very touched; my husband was a private person and would never expect to be honored this way. He was very proud to have served his country. We are deeply grateful to O’Donnell Law Firm, LLC for providing this scholarship which will enable an applicant to pursue an education. Ralph and our family know how important education is.”
“On behalf of the Sparta VFW 7248, I want to thank Jackie for her most generous support and for getting this Scholarship Fund started," Litchfield said. "Ralph Rojas was a great guy, and his legacy will continue through her efforts.”
The VFW welcomes the public to attend this free dinner on Sunday November 5, 2017 at 6 pm and share food, camaraderie and pride as we gather together to honor our veterans and their families, and announce the details of the Scholarship Foundation.
See www.facebook.com/spartavfw for more details or contact Sparta VFW Post #7248 at (973) 729-7011.