US Air Force Major Troy “Trojan” Gilbert was killed in action in November of 2006. After being called in to rescue stranded Special Ops Delta Force soldiers on the ground near Baghdad, Iraq, and taking out one of the trucks that threatened the ground troops, Gilbert flew his F16 low for a second pass and crashed. His heroic mission ended in his death, but was not in vain.
“I have no doubt there are quite a few soldiers who got to see their kids again, see their wives again, because of what Troy did that day,” said Gilbert’s close friend, Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder.
In fact, Gilbert’s sacrifice enabled 22 of his brothers to return home to their families.
At the time of Gilbert’s death, he and his wife Ginger had five children 8-years-old and under. Ginger recalls doubts she had about her husband’s decision to serve our country. “What if something happened to you over there?” she asked him before he left on that deployment. “I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to forgive ourselves for you volunteering to go.”
But Gilbert would not have been happy anywhere else.
His Wing Commander and mentor, Lt. Gen. Robin “Baba” Rand, said Gilbert had a passion for serving. “I think his belief was, ‘I need to go do this.'”
Before getting married, the Gilberts were college and high school sweethearts. “Troy was an amazing man, a godly man, a loving father and devoted husband,” Ginger said.
She describes the feeling of losing her identity after Gilbert’s death. “I was out of my comfort zone without him being my partner in life,” she said. “It was all I’d ever known since I was a teenager.”
Luckily, Folds of Honor was there to help. Ginger is grateful to the organization, which provides morale support and educational scholarships for all five of her children. “Just to have somebody else step in and go, ‘Hey, we’re going to help you, we’re going to point you in the right direction. I know I’ve got help and we can do this.””
Since being founded in 2007 by fighter pilot and PGA pro Maj. Dan Rooney, Folds of Honor has awarded more than 10,000 K-12 and higher education scholarships to deserving military families.
“I just represent one of thousands,” Ginger said. “My children represent five of thousands upon thousands of children who have lost their parents in the war.”
According to the organization, nearly nine out of 10 of the million-plus dependents of America’s fallen and wounded soldiers do not qualify for federal scholarship assistance. Folds of Honor helps to close the gap.
“I tell the kids all the time, ‘Your dad’s still taking care of you,'” Ginger said. “I’m so thankful that all these other people are there to show them that that indeed is true.”
Gilbert’s oldest son Boston hopes to build on his father’s legacy. “My dad provided an example of a life I want to live,” he said. “I am definitely proud of the man my dad was and I am proud to share the same name and carry it on.”
Greyson Gilbert agrees, adding credit for his mother’s role in keeping the family strong. “My mom is extremely brave because she could have given up at any time, but she stuck through it.”
Ginger lives by a simple motto, “You can be bitter, or you can be better.”
Her singular focus is serving her family in Gilbert’s honor. “I just want to make him proud so when I see him again he will say, ‘You did a great job after I left,’ that’s what I want.”
Everyday American is proudly presented by Redneck Riviera, in celebration of the men and women who get out there every day to make this country great. To learn more about Folds of Honor’s mission, and how your modest financial contribution can support military families through the #BecomeAWingman campaign, please visit the Folds of Honor.