This is the best day of my life!

Friday, March 29, 2019
The mentors and the boys from A Soldier’s Child Foundation are all smiles at the base camp at Henry Horton State Park as they show their cache of three turkeys harvested in Saturday morning’s hunt in Marshall County. Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

It’s been 12 years since the tragic loss of Staff Sgt. Marcus Golczynski on the battlefield in Iraq, but his memory lives on in the hearts and minds of all who knew the Lewisburg native and those who never met him.

A Soldier’s Child Foundation (ASC) was founded shortly after Golczynski’s death to honor the children left behind by war heroes and the impact that the organization has had was never more evident than the smiles on faces of the children involved in the 2nd Annual ASC Hunting and Fishing Expedition held last weekend in Marshall County.

“It was great, the kids harvested five turkeys and they absolutely had the time of their lives,” said ASC founder and Executive Director Daryl J.W. Mackin, a U.S. Navy veteran. “Experiences like this camp shows them that they are not alone, that they matter to us, and people genuinely care about their well-being.”

ASC mentor and soldier’s child Logan Argel holds the fish that Dusty Von Loh caught on the Saturday morning expedition on the Duck River in Marshall County.
Photo submitted

With base camp set up at the cabins inside Henry Horton State Park, the ASC mentors and children had the time of their lives in the three-day event as they scoured the forests and fields of Marshall County in a turkey hunt and navigated the waters of the Duck River in a fishing expedition.

State Representative Rick Tillis, who was on hand for the second year in a row said, “I’m glad they recognize this every year because that was a tragic loss for the family and for Marshall County really and it’s important to keep his memory alive and honor his son too (I got to meet him last year), so I’m glad this community pulls together every year to do this.”

The boys get a lesson on corn snakes, directed by Henry Horton State Park Ranger Julia Cruce.
Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

“We are fortunate here in Marshall County for sure to have Henry Horton Park and across the state there are many opportunities and I’m glad to see people taking advantage of what we provide.”

During downtime at the base camp, the boys enjoyed freshly cooked meals, range shooting, Frisbee golf, conservation lessons on corn snakes and barn owls led by Henry Horton State Park Ranger Julia Cruce, evening campfires, and a church service on Sunday morning before their departure.

“Henry Horton is a peaceful environment where the kids can be kids,” Mackin said. “Running through the woods, stoking the fire pits, or playing cards under the carport, and they had a great time with Miss Julie learning about owls and corn snakes.”

The boys from A Soldier’s Child Foundation pose with Elaine Huffines at the grave of her son Staff Sgt. Marcus Golczynski at the Wheel Cemetery on Saturday.
Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

The boys also made the annual visit to Staff Sgt. Marcus Golczynski’s gravesite at the Wheel Cemetery on Saturday to meet with Golczynski’s mom Elaine Huffines and his son Christian, who the foundation was began for.

“Marc wrote in a letter that we should stand by American warriors as they fight and defend the freedoms that 99 percent of us don’t,” Mackin said. “The question is how do we do that when they don’t make it home.”

“The ASC was started with Marc’s son Christian and we now serve close to 3,500 children and young adults nationwide.”

ASC mentor David Penrod nets a fish caught by Hunter Johnson near the bank of the Duck River in Chapel Hill.
Photo submitted

The ASC makes a huge difference in these children’s lives and the joy it brings was never more evident than a moment when one of them was overheard to say, “This is the best day of my life.”

The loss of a parent is always devastating, any time, but when a dedicated group of men and women give it upon themselves to step in the gap for fallen American soldiers, even if it is just for a weekend of hunting and fishing, the impact is everlasting.

The ASC serves the Gold Star families in many ways, including birthday celebrations, mentorship programs such as a week-long Journey Camp, a leadership development program designed for ASC young adults from 17 years of age and older and mini-camps which include golf, dance, sports, theater, science, songwriting, hunting/fishing programs, and more.

A Soldier’s Child Nate Vargas reels in one of many fish caught on the Saturday morning fishing expedition.
Photo submitted

The ASC also facilitates in secondary/college scholarships for the recipients through its partner organization: The Folded Flag Foundation and Fallen Patriots Foundation.

“We have grown simply because so many of that 99 percent desire to the honor the fallen and to give something back to the one percent that defend America,” Mackin said. “There are not many outlets for people to do this, so A Soldier’s Child Foundation is that outlet.”

“It is our hope to become a household name in caring for these special children.”

A Soldier’s Child is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization. All gifts are tax deductible. For more information about making an investment in A Soldier’s Child, contact Executive Director Daryl Mackin at (615) 220-1600 or via email at daryl@asoldierschild.org.

“The ASC does not do what we do without a strong volunteer base,” Mackin said. “Eight-six percent of every dollar spent goes to the kids because our volunteers do a lot of the heavy lifting.”

“The men and women mentors of Chapel Hill know sacrifice, they do not take it lightly, and together we love the child, honor the fallen soldier, and give these children a hope to live out a courageous life.”