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    Survivors enjoy riverboat cruise

    NEWPORT, KY, UNITED STATES

    06.09.2019

    Story by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane 

    133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    NEWPORT, Ky. – Surviving family members of fallen U.S. military service men and women came together for a riverboat ride on the Ohio River, Sunday, June 9.

    More than 600 family members of those killed in the line of duty were in attendance this year, making the event one of the largest of its kind in the country.

    Family members from 10 states enjoyed the cruise up the river along with a meal sponsored by Northern Kentucky's B&B Riverboats. The day is designed to recognize the surviving family members of military service members who have given their lives in defense of our nation.

    Gold star children took center stage as the planners of the event catered to them. From face painters and clowns making animal balloons to copious amounts of ice cream, there was plenty for them to enjoy.

    One of those children was Jayden Wojcik. She lost her father in Afghanistan in 2014 and her mom and step dad few years later. Now her adoptive parents, Britton and Hollie Shoellhorn, from Indiana, bring her to these events to show her she’s not alone in her loss.

    “Our daughter (Jayden) is a three time gold star child and just being able to see a smile on her face, and you know experience that others family and seeing them smile knowing they’ve been through a lot,” said Britton, who is a staff sergeant with the 38th Sustainment Brigade, Indiana National Guard.

    Both Shoellhorns were in the National Guard and knew Jayden’s mother before she passed so it was just natural for them to want to care for her when she was left without her parents. This is their third time at a Survivors Outreach Event.

    “Her face lit up when she saw the boat, it was amazing,” said Hollie Shoellhorn, who retired from the Indiana National Guard in 2015. “She was jumping around like ‘oh my gosh, its amazing’! It’s her first time on a boat she says. The one thing that she (Jayden) felt was that nobody understands what she’s going through and for her to have access to other kids who have been through similar situations has made her feel better.”

    Getting the younger ones to smile despite having been been through so much is the goal of one of the oldest surviving child that was on the riverboat.

    Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class (Ret.) Carl New-Hensley, from Ohio, now 76 years old lost his dad when he was only year and a half years old on Nov. 11, 1944. His father had spent time at Fort Campbell prior to being deployed. He himself served served in the Navy for five years as a boiler operator.

    “I spend most of my time trying to find gold star children, to show them that you can live through it and survive, said New-Hensley. “It’s a blessing just to be able to talk to the younger kids that are surviving children. Last year I met these two twins whose dad was killed in Afghanistan before they were born. So that was something to be able to talk to them and tell them and let them know If you need help, don’t be afraid to go to someone and say so.”

    For Steven and Wendy Schmidt (Team Schmidt), from Indianapolis, who lost their son Trent in 2011, this cruise is an opportunity to build new memories with each other and comes to these events for their daughter with Down syndrome.

    “That’s our baby, she’s four years old, she has down syndrome, and she likes to come to these,” said Steve. “It’s something that she really gets a charge out of. She gets a lot of attention because of her brother. She’s even got his dog tags on her.”

    But it wasn’t easy for these two to decide to take part in a Survivor event.

    “For a while we were just too sad, but even though we’re still very sad, we want to be joyful too,” said Wendy. “She (their daughter) wants to hold on to so much sorrow and disappointment. But I try to remind her of all of the fun times she’s had with her brother and be joyful about those memories.”

    “As sad as we are, other people are more sad. You just have to listen to people, the ministry of presence, just being there and listening,” added Steve.

    The leadership in the Kentucky Guard has made it a point to be involved with putting on an event like this one and takes those relationships that are created through each one seriously.

    “Its one of the events we enjoy the most, getting out there and celebrating the gold star families and show them how much them, their sacrifice, their loss of a loved one and then we keep their memory alive for them,” said State Command Chief Master Sgt Ray Dawson.

    Never feeling like you’re going through this alone is something the Guard wants to make sure these survivors understand once the leave these events.

    “They’ll always be apart of our family and as long as we can keep demonstrating that to them and keep them in the family and make them feel apart if it, they’ll always have a positive connection despite their loss and I think that’s what events like this brings,” said State Command Sergeant Major David Munden.

    “We are on the same river, all of us, the river of life,” added Wendy. “There’s going to be curves, bends and currents. We are all in this together.”

    Organized by National Guard and Active Duty Survivor Outreach Services coordinators, this weekend's event marks the sixth year in row B&B Riverboats has sponsored the event to support Gold Star Families.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 06.09.2019
    Date Posted: 06.10.2019 11:37
    Story ID: 326402
    Location: NEWPORT, KY, US 

    Web Views: 66
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