Soldiers needed as mentors for children whose parents were killed in action

Fort Bragg soldiers who would like to mentor Gold Star Youth — children of fallen soldiers — have now until February to sign up, organizers of the local wear blue: run to remember chapter said.

The national organization was founded by Lisa Hallett after her husband, Capt. John Hallett, was killed when returning from a mission in Afghanistan in August 2009.

Hallett turned to Army wives in her husband’s unit, the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division based in Washington, and grabbed a friend to run after receiving notification of her husband’s death.

Since then, chapters have been established nationwide to form a nonprofit running community that creates a support network for military members and their families, along with active-duty and retired service members, Wounded Warriors, Gold Star families and community members.

The organization includes the Gold Star Youth Mentorship Program, which pairs active-duty military with children of fallen service members, said Dianne Gray, Fort Bragg’s chapter representative for the mentorship program.

“Mentors provide a glimpse into the life of service that defined the fallen parent while participating in the life affirming action of running,” wear blue officials said. “This positive relationship and living memorial promotes continued healing and growth for both our children and their mentors.”

Gray said those wanting to mentor can sign up between now and Feb. 1.

Training and team building for youth and mentors will take place in March.

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This past Memorial Day was the first time for the Fayetteville chapter to organize a run.

Mentors and youth met at a social before spending each Saturday for eight weeks gathering at Clark Park to play games and gather in a circle with the rest of the group to call out the names of fallen service members since 9/11.

And mentors walked or ran with the youth to encourage them to finish the 5k distance.

Capt. Kymberly Koenig, a soldier with the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, was one of the mentors for Liberty Steele.

Liberty’s father, 1st Lt. Timothy Steele, was killed Aug. 23, 2011, at the age of 25, when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

Steele was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum.

“What better way to spend your Saturday mornings than … connecting with a youth … who … lost their mother or father, and to connect with them and make them feel part of the military communities,” Koenig said in May.

Organizers of wear blue said the youth and mentors train for the Memorial Day run in honor of the fallen service members.

Gray said the first official Saturday for morning running starts April 4.

After the Memorial Day 5k, youth and mentors will participate in a “Heroes’ Hike” to celebrate their training and accomplishments.

“Because of this program, our surviving youth are more capable of achieving their individual potentials, while our mentors begin to address their own healing,” organizers said.

Soldiers interested in being a mentor or Gold Star families with a child between the ages of 6-16 can register online to participate.


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