“I'm very happy that this scholarship has connected me with the Coast Guard family, and opened up ways that I can be involved with something that is so important to me.”
Audrey Gill is a recipient of the Coast Guard Foundation's Fallen Heroes Scholarship. Audrey's father, AM1 Michael Gill, was killed while flying a rescue mission in California in 1994. Audrey graduated Magna Cum Laude in December of 2013, a full semester early, with degrees in psychology and Spanish. Audrey is now a social worker in Florida and hopes to attend graduate school to pursue a master's degree.
"Due to this scholarship I was able to participate in a four-month study abroad program in Spain. I lived and went to school with Spanish students. I was able to travel to six different countries when I had never previously been out of the U.S.," Audrey wrote about how the scholarship had benefited her. "Also, because I didn't have to take out any loans, I was able to do volunteer work and internships to gain experience."
Before receiving this scholarship, I didn't have any contact [with] the Coast Guard. I'm very happy that this scholarship has connected me with the Coast Guard family, and opened up ways that I can be involved with something that is so important to me.
Audrey, who received a $20,000 scholarship disbursed over four years, was just three years old when her father died, so her memories of him have been mostly passed down from her mother, Donna. However, Audrey has letters from her dad that she reads often, as well as pictures and stories from her father's friends to help keep his memory alive. One of her most prized possessions is a wooden rocking horse that her father made "completely from scratch" as a Christmas gift for her.
"My dad was a car person, a mechanic. He was always fixing everything around the house, but I didn't get that gene," Audrey joked.
Audrey said she is honored to be the recipient of the award in her father's memory.
"It's a really big honor that my dad served in the Coast Guard," she said. "He's my hero."
“I hope that I can keep my dad's words of wisdom with me forever; that I remember the lessons he taught me, and the most important one being after his death: that you hold your head high and you love, unconditionally.”