About Us

About Our Visionary:

Meet Caroline J. Ashley

Meet Caroline J. Ashley. I am originally from Rocky Mount, NC. I grew up with my mother, Blanchie, and my brother, Willie, whom we affectionately called “Mook.” Mook suffered from Muscular Dystrophy, and when he lost his ability to walk, it changed my life forever. Despite the challenges, Mook’s strength and kindness made him an inspiration to me and others. His resilience sowed the seeds of compassion and care within me, helping me understand the importance of standing up for those who cannot do so themselves.

As I grew up, I faced many life-altering challenges. My mother suffered from severe depression; a struggle only known to a few close family members. I took on an adult role, caring for my brother and mother during her depressive episodes. This experience was challenging and confusing, yet it was instrumental in shaping my drive to protect, advocate, and care for others.

As a teenager, I wanted to serve in the Armed Forces. Initially, I had my sights set on the Marines, but my best friend Lorette (Pee Wee) convinced me to join the Army. This role was an extension of my desire to freely protect my family and those I cared for and an eagerness to make them proud.

Upon arriving at Fort Jackson, SC, I noticed and appreciated the leadership and discipline exemplified by the drill sergeants. I made becoming a Drill Sergeant my aspiration. Despite the initial challenges faced as a woman in a predominantly male environment, with a lot of hard work and focus, I achieved my goal. I served as the lead Tac Sergeant at the Basic Leadership School, Fort Bragg, NC, and became the first female assigned to C Co 44th Engr Co (COMBAT HEAVY) HQ Platoon Sergeant at Camp Mercer, Korea. Later, I was also the first female Water Well Driller in the US Army.

My active-duty service ended in 1989 due to a medical retirement. I was broken! I was wounded! I now needed someone to advocate, support, and care for me. I began to uncover and face the abuse I experienced in pursuing my desired career. As a woman, especially of color, these sacrifices made and achievements reached came at a great cost. I didn’t seek it for recognition or glory but simply out of duty and honor for my job to protect our freedom in service to our country. I know firsthand the struggles faced by women who joined the Armed Forces in 1975, often left alone to fight their internal and external battles without the guidance of older female leadership. The struggle can harm one’s physical and mental health without proper support and resources.

I decided to allow my pain to fuel my purpose to help fellow comrades. On February 24, 2010, I founded Freedom Gifts, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to serving veterans, their families, and their caregivers. Freedom Gifts is a supportive ministry designed to help those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), anxiety, and depression. We aim to provide a loving, understanding, and healing community for veterans. Our outreach programs assist veterans in various areas where they may need advocacy, care, and support. At Freedom Gifts, we communicate and understand the language of service, committing to kindness, respect, honesty, compassion, faith, friendship, and spirituality.

I also focused on advocating for and caring for my close relative, a cousin who was like a nephew. Antonio, fondly known as Tony, lived with me briefly during my military career. I cherish the memories of teaching him how to walk. He joined the Marines and became a veteran grappling with the severe effects of Multiple Sclerosis. Eventually, I brought him into my home to provide him with the needed care and support. I also assisted him in getting his social security and disability benefits. Despite becoming bedridden and losing most of his bodily functions, he had a resilient spirit and managed to smile through his struggles. He took his first steps with me and his last breath in life with me. Providing care for Tony until his passing in 2021 was one of my life’s most rewarding and fulfilling experiences and the ultimate expression of “freedom gifts.”

My faith in God, my family, and the support of my personal angel, Mother Inez Allen, have been instrumental in my success on this journey.

Thank you for visiting our page and learning more about Freedom Gifts. I am grateful for your interest, participation, partnership, and support. Together, we can create a supportive community for our veterans, their families and caregivers, and those who care for them. So, let’s unite in our mission, lighting the path of compassion—because at Freedom Gifts, we’re not just a community, we’re a family.

MISSION STATEMENT

Helping Veterans and Service members, especially women, THRIVE. Including those suffering from PTSD, MST, homelessness, suicidal ideation, and other mental health issues.

Moments from My Military Accomplishments

Drill Sergeant, Ft Dix NJ

HQ Plt Sergeant, Co C, 44th Combat Heavy Engr , Camp Mercer, Korea.

The First US Army Female Water Well Driller,
Port Hueneme Naval Base, Oxnard, CA

SSG Caroline J Ashley , NCOIC of the 38th Water Well Drlling Det, Ft Bragg, NC

Meet Our Team

Caroline J. Ashley

Virginia Haan

Teresa White

Sandra W.McFarland

Darlene Moore

Johnese Carmen

Hear from our Success Stories

I had been trying for disability for over 20 years. I had 3 different attorneys on 3 different occasions. Was denied each of those times. I tried to work but was let go several times because of my health. For the last 10 of those years, I had no income and was in and out of shelters. One day I was introduced to Freedom Gifts. I turned over all of my records from the attorneys to them. They took over from there and even assisted in paying my rent. They not only went to court with me, but they took me to court. I was finally approved. I will forever be grateful to them. If it weren't for Freedom Gifts, I don't know where I would be today. Thank you Freedom Gifts for all you do...

Flora

As a veteran I'm thankful for the relationship I have with this organization. Freedom Gifts has assisted me though some tough times. Both personally and financially. Understands my journey. Because we share the journey. To be free .

Avis US Army

"Freedom Gifts helped me out when no one else would."
"I had filed a disability claim with the VA for my knees, back, and feet, and I was denied, in 2015. After waiting 3 years and still not hearing anything I was contacted by Freedom Gifts and they assisted me in writing letters and getting information to back my claim, in 2018 I was awarded a court hearing in front of a judge and all my information was entered into my claim, in January of 2021 I won my claim and was awarded my disability. This would have never happened without the assistance of Freedom Gifts."
Freedom Gifts is a great organization, I highly recommend them.

Virginia Veteran

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