Near the close of the Second World War, when American and Allied forces liberated the town of Friesland in Holland, Alice Lusk remembers the brutal winter in 1945 that had nearly taken the life of her sister. Food was scarce then. Were it not for American GIs delivering powdered milk and other rations to her family, her sister, born prematurely, would likely not have survived.
“From that point on, the American military was just revered by my parents and in my home,” said Lusk, who earlier this year joined the Gary Sinise Foundation Legacy Society.
Lusk pledged the value of her Dallas, Texas estate to the foundation in honor of her late husband, Eddie, a highly decorated Army pilot and Vietnam War veteran. “He was first and foremost a patriot,” she said.
Alice hopes the proceeds from her estate go towards veterans’ mental health treatment, including post-traumatic stress disorder. She also sees the proceeds benefiting Gold Star families and military caregivers.
“I was a caregiver 24/7 for eight years for Ed, and of course, that was the most incredible time in our lives. Yes, it was difficult, but overall, we were just able to help so many people.”
The pledged gift was a long time coming. “It was really important that what we had accomplished and what we leave that that would be used for really what is probably the highest commitment is helping people who’ve been in the military.”
Eddie Lusk and Alice Hibma met in 1975 in Plano, Texas, while working at Electronic Data Systems, the company founded by Ross Perot. In 2009 he suffered a stroke; his doctors gave him a ten percent chance of surviving. Eddie and Alice were married for 40 years when he died in January 2017.
In July 2017, months after Eddie was interned at Santa Fe National Cemetery, Alice flew to New Mexico for the first time since his death. For 16 years, she said, Santa Fe was their home away from home. While checking into a hotel, Alice was surprised to see the same man who, only hours before, had made small talk while waiting for a flight out of Dallas.
When she told him about Eddie, the man said to her, “Thank you for your service.” Alice recognized his face but couldn’t quite place the name. It turned out that the man just happened to be one of her husband's heroes.
“The next morning, I was like, ‘wait a minute. It was Gary Sinise.’”
Choosing the Gary Sinise Foundation, instead of supporting multiple veteran service organizations, Alice explained how the gift is as much about honoring her family’s history with the U.S. military dating back to World War II and her late husband’s service in Vietnam as it is about ensuring future veterans, especially those disabled, and their families, and surviving children are cared for.
“I did a lot of research with my financial advisors and my estate planner to help me do the research because there are so many veteran organizations...I quickly discovered that Gary Sinise and his organization was at the top in terms of the money going directly to the veterans.”