Survivors of fallen Troops honored at Churchill Downs

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

Families of fallen servicemen watch the Race for Survivors of our Fallen Military Heroes at Churchill Downs from Millionaires Row during the Survivors Outreach Services event in Louisville Ky., Nov. 5, 2017. During the event over 800 families of men and women killed while serving their country were able to fellowship and have fun together in helping to heal the wounds of loss. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Around 800 families who have lost loved ones in service to their country gathered together at Churchill Downs for the eighth annual Survivor Outreach Services luncheon Nov. 5.

The Kentucky National Guard and Humana Military hosted this event to bring families from around the country together for an afternoon of lighthearted fun, face painting, live music and horse racing in Millionaires’ Row with the best view of the races.

During the event, Wells Fargo and the Military Warrior Support program presented Melissa Jarboe the keys to a new mortgage free home as a gesture of appreciation to her husband, who died during his third deployment after being hit by a sniper in Afghanistan in 2012.

“These events are so important to Gold Star families like mine, said Jarboe. “We can still be a part of something great and that’s our American military. Even though he (her husband) isn’t physically here, I know emotionally, every time I see the flag wave I feel his presence.”

She added that just being around men and women in uniform, helps her feel her husband’s presence as well. As for her home, it will help continue her healing process.

“Getting this mortgage free home from Military Warrior Support program is great because I recently adopted two children, one, a little boy to help carry on my husband’s name, so this is something for our family to grow and start a new path and a new chapter in our lives,” said Jarboe.

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Military Warriors is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization that supports wounded Service members and surviving family members. Up to this point, they have given 380 homes away to Service members and their families.

Helping heal the broken pieces is the goal of events like this and is the focus of the ones who put time into planning the event.

“Our shared loss brings us together,” said Donna Engerman, Survivors Outreach Services Manager, United States Army Installation Management Command and a survivor herself. “We’re a family and that is the bond that brings us together but the main point of this day is to have fun with each other.”

And that fun could be seen on the faces of everyone in the stands as they watched the horse’s race or in the children’s eyes as they were getting their faces painted.

The Kentucky Adjutant General was in attendance as well as commanders and leadership from 16 other states.

“This event is known as the jewel of its kind,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Hogan, “I am proud we can share this with our neighboring states and it’s a great thing we can do for our Gold Star families.”

Also during the event, Folds of Honor 5K Scholarship recipient Hannah Davis shared her memories of her father, Jeff Davis, a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot who died while doing maintenance on one of his helicopters when she was three.  She said the program helped her finish her education at Michigan State University.

More than 600 Kentucky military service members have given their lives in the defense of the nation since 9/11. Eighteen Kentucky Guard Soldiers have died in a theater of war in that time, 14 in Iraq and four in Afghanistan.