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Abigail Compton (Culpeper, VA): 2022 Pillars of Strength Scholarship Recipient

Abigail Compton’s Business Degree Will Help Her Give Back to Veterans

As long as she can remember, Abigail Compton has loved caring for others. After marrying her high school sweetheart at 19, she trained as a certified nursing assistant, a role she especially enjoyed because it allowed her to provide direct care and interact with patients in ways that other health care positions often did not. 

The birth of her first child and her husband’s deployment to Afghanistan meant leaving that career behind to become a stay-at-home mom. And then life changed.  

Abigail’s husband, assigned to the United States Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), was shot in 2009 while deployed in Afghanistan. He suffered a traumatic brain injury that caused short-term memory loss, hearing problems and balance issues, which propelled Abigail into the role of primary caregiver. Her husband continues to deal with the effects of that injury as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which severely impacts the couple’s daily life. 

“His short-term memory loss forced me to be the one who has to remember necessary life details such as doctor’s appointments, as well as important dates such as his children’s birthdays, or even everyday events, like why he walked into a room,” Abigail explained.  

By 2012, life settled down enough for Abigail to co-found Raising Raiders, a nonprofit focused on celebrating the lives of fallen Marines in her community. Over time, Raising Raiders evolved into a successful grassroots organization, and its mission expanded to provide grants to MARSOC service members, their spouses and their children to meet medical and educational needs, extracurricular activities, childcare, funeral travel and much more.  

Although Raising Raiders dissolved recently due to the loss of several key volunteers, Abigail has not slowed down. Two years ago, she and her family moved onto a farm. They began with a flock of 10 chickens, and Compton started educating herself on poultry care. She now has 90 chickens, young Nubian goats and has expanded into beekeeping, having completed an eight-week course through the DC Beekeepers Alliance.  

As one of this year’s recipients of a full-tuition Pillars of Strength Scholarship at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), Abigail envisions the ways a bachelor’s degree in business administration—funded through a scholarship program for caregivers of servicemembers—can help her prioritize her own professional goals, notably expanding her family farm business.  

“Being able to earn a degree without financial hardship will allow me to focus simultaneously on my academics and family,” she said.  

Recently, she partnered with Minority and Veteran Farmers of the Piedmont, a local nonprofit that provides local produce, eggs and meat to the underserved.  

“Our family has been extremely blessed, so I like to be able to give back,” she said. “The connections and friendships we’ve made along the way have enriched our lives.”  

Abigail hopes that the degree will help her further the business and her engagement with local nonprofits, and veteran-owned entrepreneurs. Despite her husband’s injuries and the challenging years that followed, she remains hopeful and committed to embedding her four children with the positive message of grit and determination.  

“You can feel pity for yourself, but that’s not how we raise our children,” she said. “I want our children to know that no matter what hand you’re dealt, you still have a choice to live life positively.”