By Bethany Crudele, Military Times
Marine Cpl. Donny Daughenbaugh lives with the wounds of war everyday.
A retired infantryman, he was shot in the face in 2004 by a driver passing through a security checkpoint during a nighttime foot patrol south of Baghdad.
"The [driver] pulled out an AK47 up from under his seat and shot in my direction. The bullet broke my jaw, and it's up inside my head today almost exactly where it was when he put it there," Daughenbaugh said.
Despite lasting migraines, seizures and loss of feeling in parts of his face and tongue, Daughenbaugh's injuries have helped him find a new purpose. He now works with the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation as a liaison, offering help and support to families of those wounded in combat.
"An injury like this changes your life. But if I hadn't been injured, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today," he said.
Daughenbaugh is one of several Marines who will be recognized Tuesday night at the Chicago Dinner for the Gravely Wounded. The event honors Marines and Navy corpsmen by awarding college scholarships to their children. The foundation will announce more than $1.5 million in donations, providing nearly 2,000 students with more than $6 million in vocational and post-secondary scholarships for the 2012-2013 academic year.
The foundation also will commit up to $80,000 to Daughenbaugh's kids' education. It means he and his wife, Sarah, won't have to put their life savings into college funds for their two young children.
"These are wonderful squared-away families that need to be able to have some stress relief so they can focus on growing and staying healthy," said Margaret Davis, president and CEO of the scholarship foundation. "Our mission is to honor these Marines and their families by educating their children."
Daughenbaugh is currently working towards a degree in business and public relations. He said that even though his GI Bill benefits pay for his education, the growing cost of college is something that concerns all families, especially those in the military.
"I see the bills. I know what it costs," said Daughenbaugh. "College is hard to afford now, it will be even worse eight or 12 years from now. This scholarship foundation has [our] back."
Since 1962, the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation has awarded nearly 30,000 scholarships valued at over $70 million to children whose parents have been killed or wounded in combat, or have demonstrated financial need. The scholarship foundation understands the struggles military families face, which can be made more challenging if a parent is severely wounded in combat, Davis said.
"This is not charity," she said. "This is an investment in the future of our country."
Tuesday's dinner also mark the foundation's 50th anniversary. It is the nation's oldest and largest provider of need-based scholarships to military families.
Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly, senior military adviser to the secretary of defense, will be a guest of honor. Kelly's son, 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in 2011 during a deployment in Afghanistan.
"We expect Marines, regardless of rank, to stand their ground and do their duty, becoming wounded or dying in the process, if that is what the mission takes," the general said in a news release. "Given all they sacrifice for us, it is our duty to stand behind them and their families and provide financial and emotional support where we can."