Bernaiche, Merriweather lend organizational support
for Wyakin Warrior Foundation, model educational program
Jeff Bacon, a retired Naval Officer with 26 years of military service, wanted to clear the path for severely injured veterans to transition into productive careers. One of the best vehicles is higher education, he concluded.
Thus began the Wyakin Warrior Foundation, a product of passion and compassion.
The Boise veteran, who continues to draw cartoons for the Navy Times, created a nonprofit foundation that serves those who served. It begins where military assistance ends by providing the basic needs of a college education – housing, transportation, books and supplies, tuition, fees and continues through networking and job placement.
“The mission is to capture the courageous and indomitable spirit of wounded warriors through adoption into a prestigious fraternal organization with national-level mentorship, education and corporate connections that will propel an ever-increasing number of highly motivated veterans into positions of civic, business or government leadership, fostering a spirit of service to other wounded warriors throughout the nation.” (Wyakin mission statement)
“We base our scholarships on character and motivation – not your transcripts,” according to the Wyakin Warrior Foundation website.
When Bacon created the foundation he realized it needed more than donations … it needed a solid organizational structure. ITD’s Don Bernaiche learned of the need through a mutual contact in information technology and readily joined the campaign. So did ITD colleague Dave Merriweather. And ITD consultant Linda Cornwell.
They offered their expertise in organizational and project management and arranged the use of an ITD conference room for monthly meetings.
The result of their collaborative efforts will take shape this fall when 5-10 students are expected to enroll at Boise State University or the College of Western Idaho, both of which are listed as foundation sponsors. Educational services will extend beyond the G.I. Bill, an educational benefit available to all veterans.
It could develop into a model program that serves severely wounded veterans nationwide, Bernaiche said.
“It is the first program of this type in the country,” he said. “Other programs offer pieces, but this will bring all of the pieces together into one program. That’s why there is so much interest in it.”
The educational program will be funded completely through corporate, organizational and individual contributions. The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation is among the first major corporate sponsors. BSU has donated office space and equipment to the foundation.
Bernaiche, who manages ETS, Enterprise Application Services, retired from the Air Force in 1998 after more than 26 years of service, primarily in information systems, electronics and telecommunications. He was last stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base.
Merriweather retired in 1998 after 24 years in the Air Force. He was last stationed at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, where he was supervisor of the Melrose bombing range. He is a project manager in ITD’s Project Management Office.