Pull honors the unforgotten
Fallen soldiers' families saluted by ASC
There is good everywhere, even from the most heartbreaking situations.
Heavy hearts abounded as the American Flag flew at haft staff for much of the weekend at the 39th Annual Lions Club Super Pull of the South in Chapel Hill and throughout the state to honor the slain marines and sailor in the recent Chattanooga murders.
The Lions Club has a rich history of giving back and they found a way once again to lift the spirits of others and touch the hearts of thousands on hand during Friday night's opening ceremonies.
Family members of the fallen warriors left behind in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars slowly came down the track at the Lions Club Memorial Field in a Lyons Chevrolet truck.
The procession stopped and in the bed of the truck were children of the fallen servicemen, who were all recipients of the special kindness of a yearly birthday celebration delivered by A Soldier's Child Foundation (ASC).
"I actually stumbled across A Soldier's Child last year while messing around on the Internet looking to make a donation from project I participate in every April," First Commerce Bank of Chapel Hill Vice President/Branch Manager and Lions Club member David Delk said.
"From the time I opened the ASC website and saw Christian's picture, I knew I found the right place, so I continued to check out the Foundation, its mission, staff and testimonials."
Daryl Mackin, a Navy veteran and neighbor of the parents of Marine Staff Sergeant Marcus Golcyznski of Lewisburg, who died March 27, 2007, as a result of sniper fire during Operation Iraqi Freedom, founded the ACS in 2008.
"Three months after Marcus was killed that iconic photo of his son, Christian, receiving his flag ripped through the hearts of many people, including myself," Mackin said. "It touched me like most Americans, seeing him receive that flag and hold back his tears with courage."
In what started out as a planning night for a surprise birthday party for Mackin's son and a gift for one in 2007, turned in to a life source for many as Mackin held a 10th birthday party on June 2, 2008 for Christian Golcyznski and from there, the ASC was born.
Mackin had a poignant conversation one night with Christian's grandfather Henry Golcyznski, who stated that who would care now and it hit Mackin hard.
'Stand beside us...'
This is what Marcus Golcyznski wrote to all his family and friends before he went back to Iraq and what spurred Mackin to act.
"Don't feel sorry for us, we are warriors and as warriors who have gone before us we fight and sometimes die so our family won't have to. Stand beside us because we would do it for you and it is our unity that has allowed us to proper as a nation."
Mackin expanded the idea to encompass many more fallen veterans' children and over the last six years, the ASC has taken 2000 children under its wings in all 50 states and Mackin projects those numbers to rise as the foundation continues its work.
"We are the people of our nation, the foundation is that and is here to stand up for people who sign that contract to defend our nation and what is better way to give back in a tangible way."
First Commerce Bank invited the ASC to host a birthday party for two children during its Customer Appreciation Day last week and Delk said, "I really didn't understand what I was getting involved in until I had a chance to listen and see, in person, what all this is all about."
"Being involved in the Chapel Hill Lions Club and working for a community partner like First Commerce Bank, I knew there were ways to simply spread the word to people that think like I do and want to help."
Each ASC child has a birthday celebration up to the age of 18 and in recent years the foundation has expanded its programs to include a mentorship program that includes a summer camp experience called "Journey Camp" and hunting and fishing programs throughout the year.
One family on hand at the tractor pull was the family of Army Specialist Ryan Travis Baker, a New Jersey native and member of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky who lost his life when his helicopter crashed in Mosul, Iraq on November 15 2003.
"Tristan's dad was killed two days after he turned two, so November is always a tough time for us," said Tristan's Mom Brooke Willis.
"Just being able to get a gift and feel like it's coming from his Dad is a blessing and it feels good to know he is not forgotten and that other people are trying to help him get through the grieving process."
The ASC also facilitate in college scholarships through their partners at The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation (CFPF).
Willis, who resides in Spring Hill, said about the foundation, "If it weren't for Daryl, my kids would never have learned to hunt and do all the things I can't teach them. They have been a blessing to my family."
Besides the donations from the tractor pull, the ASC children will also be a beneficiary and present at the Lions Club Golf Tournament on September 26 at Saddle Creek Golf Club.
"Helping the over 2,000 children they serve and the many others we need to reach is truly a blessing for my family, and me," Delk said. "We will be involved in this as long as we're needed."