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Stories of Service: Daughter of fallen Navy Lieutenant honors father through education

Abbie Chalfant lost her father in 2002 when he crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico while preparing for a deployment.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The daughter of a fallen hero is carrying on his legacy.  

Navy Lieutenant Commander Michael D. Chalfant died on Sept. 10, 2002.  The jet he was flying in crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico while preparing for a deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.  

His daughter, Abbie, was just shy of her third birthday.

"He was the most loving and devoted dad and husband. He was the funniest prankster. He was the biggest animal person and a huge book nerd. He's just the most amazing man," Abbie Chalfant said. 

Credit: Abbie Chalfant

As you can imagine, this was tough for Abbie's family, and they had to quickly learn a new way of life. 

"It was extremely tough losing my dad. My mom became a single mom to two very young children. I was two and my brother was eight at the time. But, it also brought us very close together. My dad was the biggest family man," Chalfant explained. 

As a way of honoring her father, the Jacksonville native has worked hard throughout her young life. She graduated in less than four years with a 3.8 GPA from the University of Florida with a degree in microbiology, cell sciences and psychology.  

Credit: Abbie Chalfant

Abbie currently works at a school for students with special needs in Jacksonville and volunteers at an equine therapy center that serves children with disabilities. 

"Everything I do...I do for my dad. I just want to make him proud. He was an extremely hard worker. He sacrificed his life for his country, his job, and his family," Chalfant said. 

Abbie's education was made possible through Freedom Alliance, a military support organization that provides financial backing for children of fallen or wounded heroes. The group has awarded more than $20 million in college scholarships since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

If you're the child of a fallen or wounded hero, you might be eligible for a scholarship. The organization is accepting applications right now. 

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