From Seed to Blossom: Bonnie Amos Helps Cultivate Operation Education
By Karen Hunt
Like First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of vice-president Joe Biden, the first lady of the U.S. Marine Corps has a soft spot for military families.
Bonnie Amos – the wife of Gen. James F. Amos, the Corps’ Commandant – knows full well the sacrifices made by those in the Armed Forces and their families. So it should come as no surprise that Mrs. Amos is the voluntary co-honorary chair of Operation Education, a scholarship program at the University of Idaho for veterans suffering from disabilities received during armed conflicts -- as well as their families.
Ruthie Nellis, wife of U-Idaho President M. Duane Nellis, is also co-honorary chair.
The idea for Operation Education was sparked after former U-Idaho President Tim White and his wife, Karen, along with staffer Heidi Linehan visited Gen. Amos and Bonnie at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Amos’ led their guests through the wounded warrior barracks. They met several wounded Marines and heard their stories.
“Our guests’ hearts were very touched by what our wounded had been going through,” says Bonnie. “This was really their dream and their vision not ours. We just said ‘our’ kids needed to be able to attend college.”
The experience led to the creation of a scholarship program for permanently wounded veterans. It helps cover some of the costs associated with attending the university.
“It offers scholarships that go beyond the post - 9/11 GI Bill, and it helps spouses if they need to go to school. It can cover everything from tutoring, to childcare to housing,” says Bonnie.
Several years later, current U-Idaho President Nellis and Ruthie visited the Amos’ in Washington, D.C. While sitting around the dinner table, the Nellis’ shared with the Amos’ how much the program had grown. The university’s first couple invited Bonnie to become Operation Education’s co-honorary chair.
“It’s a terrific honor to be a part of the program,” says Bonnie.
The scholarship program is one that Bonnie strongly believes in because of the rising cost of educational expenses and the increasing number of wounded veterans returning home from war.
“Across America, education has become so expensive. If we can help these warriors and their families achieve their successes with the scholarships and grants being offered, along with the other opportunities the federal government is offering, then collectively it allows them to live within their means and be successful at achieving their goals,” says Bonnie.
“By allowing the spouses to benefit from the scholarship opportunities, it allows them the opportunity to open up their earning power so they will feel secure as they move into the future. It allows them to live the American dream that we all talk about and to provide for their children and their children’s children,” says Bonnie.
The program also provides a safe and inviting environment to help veterans transition from military to civilian life.
“In the military, it’s a little bit of a cocoon. When military members separate from the military service, they leave that cocoon. Coming into the educational system can be very daunting. They go from carrying guns and rifles to carrying books and sitting in classrooms. Operation Education offers help and assistance for making the transition,” says Bonnie.
“This is a magnificent way for the university to say to our veterans: ‘Thank you for serving, thank you for making the sacrifice, and thank you for volunteering to stand up and safeguard our rights and our freedoms,’” says Bonnie.