By Airman 1st Class Codie Collins
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
“It was a normal day when we got the phone call,” said Tristan Ellis, a Gold Star daughter. “I didn’t understand because I was only 5 years old. I didn’t want to believe I no longer had a daddy.”
When a service member joins; they join willing to make sacrifices. A family member’s only choice is to support.
For Gold Star families, that sacrifice is permanent.
Hearts of Our Heroes Camp is a camp designed specifically for the children of Arkansas fallen service members. This week long camp provides children not only an opportunity to learn, explore and create memories, but also meet other military children who understand the reality of not having a parent or sibling present due to their ultimate sacrifice for our country.
The camp took place June 12-16 at the Arkansas 4-H center. Children ages 9 through 17 participated in different activities such as concerts, obstacle courses and team building exercises.
The Hearts of Our Heroes Camp is a joint effort between Arkansas Survivor Outreach Services, the Arkansas Gold Star Mothers and Arkansas Run for the Fallen.
“Knowing there are people looking out for me is something special,” Ellis said. “As a Gold Star kid you don’t really know how to deal with your emotions. Finding others who are going through the same things help.”
Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III told attendees at an Air Education Training Command Senior Leader Conference one priority of the Air Force is to develop and care for Airmen and their families.
Airmen from Little Rock Air Force Base ensured that priority was met when a group volunteered at the Hearts for Our Heroes Camp June 15, 2017.
The volunteers spent a day as battle buddies for Gold Star children zip lining, competing in different games and spending one-on-one time with the kids.
“It’s important service members acknowledge Gold Star members’ sacrifices,” said Airman 1st Class DakotaStorm Nichols, a volunteer from the 19th Security Forces Squadron. “We need to provide support for those who remain and let them know their loved ones are not forgotten. Gold Star members have given a large part of their lives for this country and we need to take care of them.”
Losing a family member is hard, but these children do not have to go through it alone. Hearts of Our Heroes camp ensures those children have a place to connect with others who understand.