When the Joseph siblings got the assignment for their final public relations class at Texas State University, they knew they had to bring it back to their hometown.

The entire grade for the course is based on creating, organizing and hosting a fundraiser for the American Widow Project.

Michael and Vanessa Joseph, siblings who graduated from Harker Heights High School in 2008 and 2009 respectively, both knew the fundraiser would be more successful in a place surrounded by military supporters than the college town of San Marcos.

The Josephs and the six other students in their group decided on a fashion show scheduled for today at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center. It will feature military widows walking down the runway to feature the latest fashions available at Dillard’s, as well as silent auction items and a guest speaker.

“We want people attending the event to care,” said Vanessa Joseph. “We want it be meaningful.”

The American Widow Project is a San Marcos-based nonprofit. It provides military widows with support through inspiring and empowering community programs, said Taryn Davis, who founded the project after her own husband died in combat in Afghanistan. Since 2008, the project has helped more than 800 widows. Both Davis and her husband graduated from Texas State.

“If you’re going to do something, do it right,” said Michael Joseph. “Another reason this project is important to us, is our father went overseas. We only got phone calls every two months. We were the lucky ones, because our dad got to come back. ... I can’t imagine if my dad didn’t come back.”

The group hopes to raise $10,000 for the organization, and get good marks in the course. Some proceeds will also go Fort Hood’s Survivor Outreach Services, which supports about 270 spouses in the Central Texas area.

“Seeing students at that age with that type of interest isn’t something you come across too often,” Davis said. “This is a huge benefit (for the nonprofit). I think if they raise $5 for us, it wouldn’t matter due to the exposure and buzz they are creating in the area. ... If one new widow comes our way because of this fashion show undoubtedly a success.”

Anita Cabral, of Heights, is one of the women to be walking in the fashion show Friday. Her husband was killed Jan. 31, 2004, in Iraq, just 30 days before he was to return home.

She said it took her about two years to get involved, and she now continues to support the troops by raising funds through pin-up modeling. She currently has two posters and a calendar out.

“I see color now. I live life. I can breathe and feel,” she said of her long road to finding peace with herself.

“The reason I got out of my funk really is my kids grew up,” she said. “It is the strength you need to get out and not break down and cry and show my boys we can do it. To go from broken to shining.”

The mother of four boys, she said she’s eager for any opportunity to get dressed up and “be girly.”

“We get to be pampered for real,” Cabral said. “I thank (the students) so much for giving us this opportunity and for thinking of us. I’m honored.”

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here. You can contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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