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Gold Star University of Florida student ‘ruck walks’ the National Mall

Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 1:20 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Gold star students are in Washington, D.C. this week seeing the sights and paying tribute to their parents who died serving the country.

“It can be lonely at times because it’s such a unique situation,” said Abigail Chalfant, a Gold Star daughter.

Chalfant reminisced about her father who died flying for the Navy in 2002. Lieutenant Commander Michael Chalfant was preparing for a Persian Gulf deployment when his plane crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico. Abigail is one of 12 gold star students who traveled to Washington with the Freedom Alliance, a military non profit.

“I’m so proud to be my dad’s daughter and I just love him and can’t thank him enough for what he did for our country and my family,” said Chalfant.

Abigail received a scholarship through the organization and graduated from the University of Florida in three and a half years. She plans to get her PhD and become a child psychologist.

In Washington this week Abigail carried her late father with her as she walked around the National Mall, where a Global War on Terrorism memorial will eventually stand to honor her father and the thousand who also died in the war.

“It means so much to be here for him today and get to learn about the memorial they’re going to build,” said Chalfant.

The Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation put on the ruck walk to show the Gold Star students possible locations for the future memorial. It was the third ruck walk the organization put on in 2022.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to share our mission with them but also I’m really excited to hear what they have to say as we tour the reserve,” said Michael Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation.

The former Green Beret said he hopes to have a location for the memorial set on the National Mall by the end of this year. Congress authorized construction of the memorial in the reserve portion of the mall last December. Rodriguez is eager to start building, so visitors can honor those lost in this war.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to tell the stories, the millions of stories, in this multigenerational conflict,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez says the foundation will continue holding these ruck walks as they move closer to construction of the memorial.

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