Survivors Set Sail to Remember

By Sgt. Brandy Mort, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Tom Hunter is presented an Honor and Remember flag by Gold Star Chili during the Survivor Outreach Services event on the B&B Riverboats in Newport, Ky., June 12, 2016. Hunter is the father of Staff Sgt. James P. Hunter, a Print Journalist killed in Afghanistan. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brandy Mort)

Tom Hunter is presented an Honor and Remember flag by Gold Star Chili during the Survivor Outreach Services event on the B&B Riverboats in Newport, Ky., June 12, 2016. Hunter is the father of Staff Sgt. James P. Hunter, an Army Print Journalist killed in Afghanistan in 2010. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brandy Mort)

NEWPORT, Ky. — The Belle of Cincinnati set sail along the Ohio River in its third year hosting “Gold Star” families. A Gold Star family is a term for anyone that has lost an immediate member in conflict or in support of certain military operations. The term originated during World War I and continues today.

More than 600 Surviving family members, friends, and fellow service members of fallen U.S. military service men and women came together for a riverboat ride on the Ohio River, Sunday, June 12, 2016 in Newport.

As family members awaited boarding the vessel, many families took the time to capture an image by the “Survivors of American Heroes” flag, hung in the middle of the conference room. One of those families were from Powell County, Kentucky, and had brief moments of nostalgia about their fallen hero, Bobby Jo Martin Jr., from the 82nd Airborne.

“He was our best friend,” said Dana Spencer, Martin’s niece, “We would always love to sit and listen to the wonderful stories he had to tell about his journeys with the military. Because of the Army, we can sit back and enjoy those stories at events like today.”

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As the families boarded the vessel, they were greeted with a meal courtesy of Cincinnati, Ohio-based Gold Star Chili. Also, during the event, Gold Star Chili representatives were awarded with the 7 Seals Award, for supporting military surviving families and for donating all of the food and beverages for the event.

“This is our favorite event to be a part of every year, it’s the little things we can do to give back to our military personnel for serving and fighting for us,” said Natalie Miller, a catering manager for Gold Star Chili, “It’s the least we can do to get these families through such a tough time and we are honored to be able to provide for them. “

Also, during the awards portion of the event, two service members were honored with “Honor and Remember” flags. Cathy Mullins, President of Kentucky Gold Star Mothers, presented the flags to Mrs. Linda Weeks, for her son, Sgt. Roger L. Adams Jr., and Mr. Tom Hunter, father of Staff Sgt. James P. Hunter.

As you ventured down onto the first level of the vessel, the children were greeted with backpacks full of fun activities and were also able to get their face painted, all in thanks to the Survivor Outreach Services and Youth Services. One member of the team, Carly Glorioso, Support Coordinator of Indiana’s Survivor Outreach Services, ventured around the boat as much as she could in order to see all that was provided. She smiled as the children transformed through their face paints.

“I am honored and privileged to get to spend the day with those who have given so much,” said Glorioso, “We offer the families the resources to take some of their worries away. We want to give them every thing they need.”

On the top and sides of the vessel, you could over look all of the scenery the Ohio River has to offer, passing by the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals stadiums. While others looked onward at the views, others took time to capture images by the American flag.

Nanette, Paul, and Nicole Zanowick, from Ohio, were that family. They said that they had always been raised to take pride in America, that is how their lost loved one, Paul “Rocky” W. Zanowick II, was raised and they are proud of everything that he was able to do for this country.

As the Belle of Cincinnati neared the end of the day’s journey, most families reflected on the day’s events. This was the first year attending this event for most families, but for Dana Spencer, this was her second.

“This event gives me and my family hope,” said Spencer, “At this event, we are able to speak freely, knowing that others know how we feel and have gone through some of the things we have been through. We will be coming back and we hope that others do too.”

As the family members left the ship, Terri Bernstein, Captain of the B&B Riverboats, and the widow of Staff Sgt. Nicholas R. Carnes, a Kentucky Guardsman who was killed in Afghanistan in 2007, smiled at the days event. She hopes to see more families next year and in the years to come.

“I am proud of what this event has become and I can’t wait to see what we can do next year,” said Bernstein.

For more information about the Gold Star programs, log on to www.goldstarfamilyregistry.com

For information about Survivor Outreach Services, visit www.sos.army.mil