Last Updated on April 24, 2023 by Luke Feldbrugge
Angels of America’s Fallen is dedicated to providing support to children of fallen soldiers across the nation. The Homes for Heroes Foundation awarded the organization a $10,000 hero grant to assist in their mission to support these kids, to give them the coaching and mentoring they need.
This Homes for Heroes Foundation grant is part of the Homes for Heroes Circle of Giving, providing assistance for heroes in dire need across the country.
The Angels of America’s Fallen Interview with Jay Flynn
Homes for Heroes Outreach Coordinator, Jay Flynn, talks to Joe Louis, U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, retired, who is the founder and CEO of Angels of America’s Fallen. Carrie Lukins is the Homes for Heroes real estate specialist who nominated the organization. You can watch the full interview here or read the transcript of the interview below.
Jay: Hello. Thanks for joining us today. I’m Jay Flynn, Homes for Heroes outreach coordinator, and we are joined today by Joe Louis, U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, retired. He’s also the founder and CEO of Angels of America’s Fallen. Along with that, I’ve got real estate specialist Carrie Lukins. Carrie is the broker owner of Sellstate Alliance Realty and Property Management.
Joe and Carrie, welcome.
Carrie: Thank you so much for having us.
Jay: Absolutely. As part of the Homes for Heroes Circle of Giving, the Homes for Heroes Foundation gives grants to nonprofits whose missions are to help heroes in dire need. I’m happy to recognize that Angels of America’s Fallen is a Home for Heroes, April 2023 Grant Recipient. Awesome, congrats. Carrie and I are honored to present Angels of America’s Fallen with this Homes for Heroes Foundation grant for $10,000.
Carrie: Thank you very much. It will help us do some good for some very deserving children.
Jay: Awesome, wonderful. We have a lot of gratitude for all of our military heroes. And we hope that this Homes for Heroes Foundation grant helps Angels of America’s Fallen to serve the children of our hero families. So let’s just take a few minutes, and let’s talk about Angels of America’s Fallen and its mission. So, Carrie, you nominated Angels of America’s Fallen for the Homes for Heroes Foundation.
Tell us a little bit about what moved you to make that nomination.
Carrie: I was honored to be introduced to Angels of America’s Fallen a couple of years ago, fortunately and unfortunately, by a dear friend of mine. Their children are angel children. We lost our friend in the line of duty in the military. We’re coming up on five years in May. When I learned the mission of Angels of America’s Fallen, it was a no brainer for me.
I’m a military spouse and, knowing what the Angels of America’s Fallen do for our military children, you couldn’t ask for anything better. It takes the sacrifice of our military heroes and just continues that on into the next generation.
Jay: That’s tremendous. And I’m sorry for your friend’s loss.
Carrie: Thank you.
Jay: Joe, Angels of America’s Fallen was founded in 2012. You are not just the CEO, but you’re also the founder, right? Tell us a little bit about what inspired you to create your nonprofit.
Joe: I had a really strange military career. I started off in the Army National Guard right out of high school, and then through college. After college, I went into the Marine Corps and flew for the Marine Corps for about 11 years. I worked closely with the Navy while I was doing that, on three different aircraft carriers. Then I broke my back and couldn’t keep doing that line of work anymore.
So I got out and went to the airlines and flew for American Airlines just a couple of months before 911 occurred. Then I went back on active duty with the Air National Guard. So I was active Air Force and retired, with that combination. I also work closely with the Coast Guard and law enforcement from federal, state and local–doing counter counternarcotics stuff.
I lost friends in every branch of the service in that process, and it was always the great guy with little bitty kids. Two of my friends in the Marine Corps had babies they never even got to meet. It really impressed upon me that those kids have to go through their whole lives missing one of their biggest mentors, who was generally the breadwinner of the family as well.
As I was nearing retirement, I was at soccer games with my sons. They were both in championship games in different age groups. I looked at all that goodness, with the kids interacting with the coach and seeing that mentoring they were getting. I thought, this is something that I’d like to ensure that kids have access to in sports, music, arts–basically healthy activities with a coach or an instructor in their own community.
That can help them mitigate some of the additional risks they face after the traumatic loss of their parent. So that’s how Angels was born. I didn’t hear a booming voice of God telling me to do it, but I just felt this. This is what I was supposed to do. So I jumped in and started it.
It’s very personal to me.
Jay: That’s awesome. Joe, as you know, April is the month for the military child, right? So tell us a little bit about the resources that Angels of America’s Fallen uses to support the families of our fallen heroes.
Joe: Sure. You often have the tip of the iceberg, when you can easily see the kids engaged in activities in their own communities. All across the nation, no matter where they may move to, wherever they are, we want them to take their healthy passion for sports, music, arts. We make payments for those directly to the activity providers.
But more importantly, when we enroll the kids, we commit to sticking with them all the way. Up to 19 years old, they are going to be supported by Angels of America’s Fallen without having to reapply. We also get to know the families. This is a long-term engagement model. So we want to call and follow up and see how they’re doing throughout the year.
In that process, we’re doing case management. We’re getting to know the families, referring them to any other benefits they may be eligible for. Importantly, we are also connecting them with other families that might have a similar grief journey, those who are further along and can help them. We’re doing networking, and we also have what we call our Voices program. That’s an opportunity for the kids and the parents to go out and speak and tell the story of their loved one.
They’re honoring their loved one, and they’re helping us to help more kids. So there’s healing and helping. When they go do this, it’s like working out. When you work out your torn muscle grows back stronger. They’re opening wounds, but then they’re healing through that process. It’s all that combined.
Jay: In your 11 years, Is there one particular story that sticks out that you might want to share with us?
Joe: There are so many amazing stories. But yeah, there is one in particular. There was an Air Force F-16 pilot, Major Troy Gilbert, and he was flying in Iraq. After he dropped his bombs, he was returning from a mission and was called to support the Special Operations Forces that were being overrun. They were not going to make it out if they didn’t have some support.
So he went down and did low passes, strafing with the gun. On the second pass, he collided with the ground. He was so low and he was so focused on the target that he crashed. And when he did, all the insurgents moved to the crash site to try to recover what they could, including taking his remains. By dying, he saved the lives of these special operations guys.
He had five kids left behind. His kids ended up going on a waiting list with us. The oldest one of them, Boston, had only shown interest in soccer since his father passed. That was the only thing that he really wanted to do. The day his mom was going to have to tell him that she couldn’t afford to travel soccer was the day we called to say, “Hey, we can move your kids off the waiting list.”
So she didn’t have to tell them that. And Boston continued to play soccer. Then he went on to Southern Methodist University on a soccer scholarship and played soccer for them. And then three years ago came back and was the keynote speaker at our annual gala. That’s our biggest fundraiser. So there was a whole lot wrapped up there.
There’s even more. Turns out my next door neighbor was one of the guys on the ground that day, the guys Troy saved. That’s one story in particular that definitely stands out.
Carrie: Every story is just so impactful, and the Angels of America’s Fallen are able to help so many of our children. Every one of them has a story and everyone is different.
Every one of them makes a difference.
Jay: Wow. So Joe Homes for Heroes is so excited that this Homes for Heroes Grant is going to be there for you guys. So what is this Grant going to do to help further Angels of America’s Fallen mission?
Joe: It’s really impactful for us. We have a goal this year to go from 450 enrolled last year to 550 this year. That’s a big percentage increase and this funding will help us do that. In addition to the funds that come from PayPal kids activities will help us move more kids off the waiting list. You know, the awareness piece of this, too, through the voting process is key.
It helps us raise awareness that there are actually thousands of children of our fallen military and the first responders out there. And as a nation, we should pay it forward to the kids of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and community. The funding and the awareness piece are both important.
And I’ve got to say, realtors are some of the most giving people, and I think a lot of that comes from their commitment to the community. They’re helping people get established in the community where they’re moving in. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re supporting these kids in their communities all across the country. And I just can’t thank you guys enough.
I just want to make sure I include that this is a very special group of people. And thank you so much.
Jay: That is amazing. So everything that you and Angels of America’s Fallen is doing is just truly making a difference. And to hear that you’re trying to grow that group across the nation, you know that’s really what the whole Circle of Giving is all about–trying to serve our nation’s heroes. So, Joe, obviously expanding the 500+ folks is going to require some funds.
Tell our audience a little bit how they can get him involved, how they can support your mission and where they can go to learn more about Angels of America’s Fallen.
Joe: Angels of America’s Fallen’s website is a great place to connect. We’ve got videos there where you can see more of family stories, where you can see the impact that your support is having.
On there, we have a volunteer tab, we’ve got an events tab and other things so people can join us and participate and help wherever they are. We actually have our first chapter started in Atlanta, Georgia. We’re looking for chapters in other states that will build support and awareness and resource building. That’s a great way for people to connect with us.
We also do our Big Angel Gala that I mentioned. And as a part of that, we have a really extensive silent auction that is available wherever you are.
Carrie: The Angel gala is broadcast worldwide, and we would love for people to be able to join us at the gala. It’s on May 20.
Joe: Carrie here is one of our sponsors, so they are very good to us.
Carrie: My partner, Preston Smith and I have been very blessed to be affiliates with Homes for Heroes since 2016, and we love to be able to pay it forward here in our community.
Jay: That is just awesome. So thank both of you guys for joining me today, and thank you for everything that you’re both doing to help and support the children of our fallen heroes. Carrie, you support the angels and all the work that the Angels are doing. That’s just tremendous. To our audience, thank you guys, for joining us, too.
To hear more about the great work of Angels of America’s Fallen, remember to look it up on the web and follow that gala and see if you can watch it.
An easy way to show support is by giving this video a like, leave us a comment and most importantly, give us a share on social. Then make sure that you’re tuning in to future episodes, because we’re always given to meaningful nonprofits.
The Homes for Heroes Foundation has partnered with organizations to help our heroes in need all the time. So until next time, take time out of your day to say thank you.
Homes for Heroes
Grants from the Homes for Heroes Foundation are made possible by the Homes for Heroes Circle of Giving and its network of real estate professionals who are committed to providing savings to hero groups such as firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, military, active and veterans, health care professionals and teachers. To learn more about the services available through Homes for Heroes or to learn more about how the foundation is helping heroes in dire need, visit Homes for Heroes.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the Homes for Heroes YouTube channel and to learn more about the savings available to heroes through Homes for Heroes. Also, take a moment to learn more about the Homes for Heroes Foundation and the grants it provides nonprofit organizations who help heroes in need, or simply to make a donation.