Chapel Hill hunters stand for the fallen
Daryl J.W. Mackin, Founder and Executive Director of A Soldier’s Child Foundation (ASC) summed it up perfectly when he talked about what it means to the children of fallen soldiers when men stand in for the families left behind, saying, “They are doing the best they can to be that male mentor, that role model, to be an ear, a heart just to listen and let these kids know they are loved.”
“What we say is love the child, honor the fallen and give them hope and through these little pieces of victory in their lives, through mentorship and adventure, they are finding hope.”
Mackin was speaking about men from Chapel Hill, who volunteered their time to mentor 10 children of the fallen last weekend in a turkey hunt and fishing expedition.
“Middle Tennessee is reaching the nation for the children of the fallen, Middle Tennessee is taking charge,” Mackin said. “And if you go even further in, it’s Chapel Hill, it’s Chapel Hill out of Middle Tennessee, out of Tennessee, out of the whole nation, it comes down to Chapel Hill, that’s crazy,” Mackin said.
“I have more volunteers and more things happen with these guys, who are the salt of the earth for me and the ASC.”
David Delk organized the event for the ASC with base camp set up inside Henry Horton State Park and Delk brought in some of the most experienced outdoorsmen in the town in Scott Delk, Trey Lawrence, Benji Gilliam, Will Holton, Ed Sweeney, David Penrod, Jerry Rzemieniewski, Bo and Tyler Klaren, Lucas Welch, and Hayden Cook.
“This has been three years in the making,” Mackin said. “David Delk, who is a stick figure here in Chapel Hill has been volunteering with us the last three plus years during our hunt and he has always been a part of it. His aspiration was to get his buddies and just Chapel Hill folks to run the whole thing and I completely trusted him from day one and I know how David Delk does things, so I said let’s do it.”
Saturday was the big day for the ASC boys as they traversed the fields and woods of Marshall County in hopes of bagging a turkey and navigated the waters of the Duck River to hook some fish.
A not so perfect day of weather left the hunters undaunted as they accomplished the mission, bringing back a nice cache of birds and stories of fishing expeditions where the fish didn’t get away.
After a big lunch cooked by the men, the boys helped clean the birds and the ones that fished in the morning were off to the fields and lucky turkey catchers went to the boats.
In between something remarkable happened.
The event that sparked the creation of the ASC was the death of Lewisburg native Staff Sgt. Marcus Golczynski, who was killed on March 27, 2007 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Al Anbar Provence, Iraq.
Mackin, who was neighbors with Golczynski’s parents at the time of the tragedy, started the foundation to honor Marc Golczynski’s eight-year old son Christian after being haunted by the question from Marc’s father, “does it matter, does anyone care”?
Care they did and from that love the ASC was born and every year the Golczynski family, friends, and comrades of Marc’s meet at the Wheel Cemetery to celebrate Marc’s life and honor his service to the country.
On this day, Mackin brought the 10 ASC children to the cemetery and it was moving experience for him, the kids, and all in attendance.
“I talked to them in the van driving over and they didn’t know the story, so I told them the whole story and as I told it you could hear a pin drop,” Mackin said. “And when we got there all of them, one by one went up to Marcus’s mom Mrs. (Elaine) Huffines and Miss Heather (Golczynski) and Christian as well and it was just a very special moment for me.”
“I mean Christian is where it all began and the question that was proposed to me by his grandfather, ‘does it matter, does anyone care’?”
“A Soldier’s Child began to answer those questions, but what we realized after we started was that it wasn’t just to Mr. Golczynski. It was to every Gold Star mom, every Gold Star child, aunt, uncle, father and mother. It is the one percent of our population that have lost somebody in the military who we are communicating back to that we know it matters to them that we take care of these kids.”
After the brief visit to the hero’s resting place, the hunting and fishing parties were off on the rainy day till dark and afterwards, another big dinner was served.
Tennessee District 92 State Representative Rick Tillis, who was in attendance on Saturday to meet the kids and thank the volunteers said about the event and mission of the ASC, “I’m grateful there are people who have taken this and have the heart for it, these children have suffered a tragic loss in their life.”
“For people to step up, especially local people here in Middle Tennessee and here in Marshall County, it makes me feel really good about our community because it lets me know that people in our community, not just a few, but quite a bit of the people here work a lot here in the community and for this kind of event and what these kids have been through it’s just great, it makes feel good.”
The ASC was founded in 2008 and started to honor the children with birthday celebrations and expanded their reach with a wide variety of mentorship programs such as a Journey Camp for ages 8-thru-16 and the PS23 Program leadership development program designed for ASC young adults from 17 years of age and older.
Other mentorship programs include mini-camps which offer golf, dance, sports, theater, science, songwriting, hunting/fishing programs, and more.
The ASC also sponsors a College Scholarships through their partner organization: The Folded Flag Foundation and Fallen Patriots Foundation.
“I believe we are changing their lives and it may sound far-fetched, but to some extent I believe we are saving some of these kids’ lives, I really do,” Mackin said. “I’m not going to stop believing that and we are going to keep doing what we are doing here.”