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Fallen Patriot Fund Makes First Gift To Family In N.C.

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Janina Bitz of Jacksonville has been selected as the first grant recipient of the Fallen Patriot Fund.

The fund, established April 16 by the Mark Cuban Foundation, helps families of U.S. military personnel who were killed or seriously injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Bitz' husband, Marine Sgt. Michael E. Bitz, was killed in Iraq in March. She will receive $12,000 from the Foundation -- the equivalent of $1,000 per month for a year -- to assist with living expenses and the cost of raising her three children.

"We are proud to be providing assistance to the Bitz family," said Mark Cuban. "Sgt. Bitz made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. To provide financial support to Mrs. Bitz, their son and their babies, who never will get the chance to meet their father, is the least we can do."

Sgt. Bitz was assigned to the 2nd Assault Amphibious Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, stationed at Camp Lejeune.

Two weeks after her husband's deployment, Janina Bitz gave birth to fraternal twins, Taylor Hope and Caleb, now 2 months old.

The couple also has one other son, Joshua, 2.

"This grant is a true blessing in many ways, not just financially," Janina Bitz said. "Other families like mine -- who have either lost their loved one, or their loved one has been injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom -- can get that little extra help getting through this trying, but not completely hopeless, time and into the future.

"I am truly overwhelmed with gratitude and thankfulness to the Mark Cuban Foundation, the American public and to my late husband, Sgt. Michael Bitz, an American hero, a child's superhero, and my angel."

The Mark Cuban Foundation will match donations to the Fallen Patriot Fund dollar for dollar up to $1 million. Over the past two weeks, donations have been received from 46 states and Canada.

In addition, the Bank of America Foundation will match associate donations dollar for dollar from gifts of $25 up to $5,000.

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