Father’s Day is ‘bittersweet’ for these children who lost their dads in the line of duty

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By Allison Klein | The Washington Post: Inspired Life

On Father’s Day, Haley Hartwick usually stops by Texas Roadhouse, which was her father’s favorite restaurant, to get a take-out dinner of steak and potatoes. She then likes to go home and watch the movie “Quest for Camelot,” a film they enjoyed watching together.

Her father, Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Hartwick, was killed in 2006 in Iraq when his helicopter was shot down by enemy fire. She was 10 years old.

“I usually pay tribute to him with little things,” said Hartwick, 22, who lives in Reston. “Father’s Day has a bit of a bittersweet, melancholy feeling.”

She and other children who lost a father in the line of duty wrote letters to their dads for Father’s Day this year in part as a grief exercise, in part to honor their fathers’ legacies — and also to be part of a project started by the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, a nonprofit organization that pays full tuition for gold-star children to attend college.

The Father’s Day letter-writing initiative began because more than 97 percent of service members killed in the line of duty are men, according to the foundation, leaving most of the foundation’s beneficiaries feeling adrift on that day.

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