A Story of Compassion and Empathy
When a member of the United States military passes away, a celebration of his or her life and service is provided by the U.S. military. During the funeral, a folded flag is presented to the family. By presenting the flag to a fallen soldier’s family, the military is honoring not just the soldier’s sacrifice, but the family’s sacrifice as well.
Daryl Mackin, founder and executive director of A Soldier’s Child Foundation and author of the book A Life Worth Celebrating, understands the importance of this tradition as the foundation’s three Points of Service represent the three points of the folded flag.
In his book, he says, “First we celebrate their lives (children of the fallen) by honoring them on their birthday each year until they turn eighteen … Second, we provide opportunities for mentorship as they grow. Third, we facilitate financial support for secondary and post-secondary education through scholarships awarded by our partners at The Fallen Patriots and The Folded Flag Foundations.”
Daryl is a veteran himself as he served in the United States Navy for six years as a chef and served on five different Navy vessels. He understands the sacrifices that are required of the soldier and the soldier’s family. Daryl’s vision for the foundation began when he was planning his son’s sixth birthday party. He began thinking of Christian Golczynski, who lost his father, Marc, on March 27, 2007. Daryl was neighbors with Marc’s dad and stepmom, and they gave him a picture of Christian accepting his father’s flag at his funeral and a picture of Marc in an Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV).
In the book, he explains, “The first photo does for me what it does for everybody else. You see Christian holding back the tears; his chin is buckled. He’s trying to be brave while he receives his father’s flag. It’s the picture of an eight-year-old boy stepping up … That second photo reminds me that Marc was just another guy, a man with hopes and dreams … a man with a family. I would never forget his sacrifice.”
Thus begins the journey of developing A Soldier’s Child Foundation. In the eight years since its beginning, the organization has become nationally recognized. Daryl and the foundation were recently featured on “NBC Nightly News.” The foundation is unique in that it provides so many services to the children of the fallen. A yearly birthday present is not the only gift that is given to the children; they are also given the gift of being a child again.
The foundation offers two mentorship programs: Journey Camp and PS23 Leadership Program. The Journey Camp has a new theme each year. According to the foundation’s 2016 annual report, the camper core values always stay the same and include “to embark on personal journeys in pursuit of adventure, to build meaningful lifelong relationships with other ASC kids and mentors and to seek healing and restoration.” After three years of attending Journey Camp, the kids can move forward to the PS23 Leadership program which is an “annual three-day leadership development retreat that focuses on Christian principles and values as it relates to the career path of our young adults.” Once the kids graduate from this program, they are encouraged to help mentor the Journey Camp attendees.
When asked why he decided to title his book A Life Worth Celebrating, Daryl explains they have used the title in the past for their dinner banquet and giving campaign. For him, the title has a dual meaning.
“It is celebrating the life of the veteran who died as well,” he says.
By celebrating the child’s life, the foundation is celebrating the life of the soldier. It is a beautiful and meaningful sentiment and one that is too often overlooked. The overall goal of the foundation is to remember the children and for them to know that America has not forgotten them.
“Through love, honor and hope, our hope is that they find a way to live a courageous life,” Daryl says.
To this day the foundation has celebrated more than 10,000 birthdays and currently has more than 3,000 children enrolled in the foundation.
To learn more about the organization and how to get involved, visit ASoldiersChild.org.