Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation

The foundation was formed in 1995 by a group of former Marines and law enforcement officers who wanted to help children of victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, particularly the children of Secret Service members.

It was a dark day in military aviation history Dec. 9, 1999, when six Marines and one Navy corpsman lost their lives in a CH-46 helicopter crash 14 miles off Point Loma. Retired Marine Corps Col. Robert Coates was the commanding officer of the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company at Camp Pendleton at the time. Five of the men killed were under his command. "They were preparing for forward deployment to the Persian Gulf and doing a certification exercise at sea," Coates recalls. "The helicopter crashed into the side of the ship." The CH-46 got tangled in netting on the USNS Pecos and overturned into the ocean; 11 aboard were able to get to the surface of the water and were rescued by nearby Naval Special Warfare boat crews who were participating in the training mission. The seven enlisted men killed left behind 10 children among them, according to news reports about the incident. Coates says the tragedy is the reason he became involved with a nonprofit group that raises funds for children of fallen Marines and federal law enforcement officers. "The Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation came forward to help their children," Coates recalls. "From that day on I was deeply appreciative. I was honored and privileged to join the organization." Coates, one of the foundation's vice presidents, says the people behind MCLEF believe children are our nation's most precious asset and deserve a future. "We can never do enough for our fallen and especially their family members," Coates says. "They have suffered a lifechanging experience when they lose their fathers like that, so young. You want to provide an opportunity for them that their father would have given them had he been present." The foundation was formed in 1995 by a group of former Marines and law enforcement officers who wanted to help children of victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, particularly the children of Secret Service members, according to Eric Torykian, an MCLEF vice president, whose father, Richard P. Torykian Sr., is a founding member. Today, the foundation relies on one paid employee and hundreds of volunteers nationwide who help facilitate scholarships for children of fallen Marines, federal law enforcement officers and, in some cases, the children of members of other branches of service. The foundation, through black-tie galas and other fundraising events - including an annual dinner in San Diego - provides each child a $30,000 scholarship through a 529 college savings plan. Eric Torykian says MCLEF moves swiftly and without red tape when someone is killed in action. "We have hundreds of volunteers and if they see something in the news, they call the office and let us know if someone has been killed in action or died in a training accident," he says. "We operate under the radar. We want to present the scholarship and have a positive impact on these children's lives so they can move forward with their goals as smoothly as possible given the tragic circumstances." Torykian says 99 percent of funds raised go back to scholarships and other charitable efforts supported by MCLEF. On May 15, 2010, in Alexandria, Va., foundation director Pat Haynes and retired Marine Lt. Gen. D'Wayne Gray presented Rene Cahir Browne with two scholarship bonds for 5-month-old twin girls Caroline and Elizabeth. Their father, Marine Corps Reserve Sgt. William J. Cahir was shot and killed Aug. 13, 2009, while on foot patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan. The girls were born four months later. Coates says he's had the honor to present grieving widows and their children MCLEF scholarships. "It is gut-wrenching, particularly if you knew the Marine," he says. "You see the faces of their fathers in each one of those kids. One is too many and it doesn't get easier. We will never be able to measure up to the loss the family has incurred but we are trying to do something. That is what MCLEF is about." Coates thinks about his men who were killed in the helicopter accident off Point Loma almost 15 years ago. "There are children of those fallen from that accident who have joined and enlisted in the Marine Corps," he says. "By the encouragement of their mothers, at the direction of their mothers, they wanted their sons to follow in the footprints of their fathers despite being killed and making the ultimate sacrifice for their country."

The foundation relies on one paid employee and hundreds of volunteers nationwide who help facilitate scholarships for children of fallen Marines, federal law enforcement officers and, in some cases, the children of members of other branches of service.

• The mission of the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation is to encourage the spiritual, moral, intellectual and physical development of children through education by providing scholarships to children of fallen Marines and federal law enforcement officers.

• The foundation was formed by former Marines and law enforcement personnel in 1995 and has since raised and granted more than $57 million in aid for more than 2,000 children. The foundation also supports children of Marines who have a physical or mental disability who require special medical equipment or tutoring that may not be covered by insurance; and plastic surgery and dental services for Marines injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more information go to, www.mclef.org