WARMINSTER TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- On August 26, 2021, news from Kabul, Afghanistan sent shockwaves around the world. 13 United States service members were killed when an ISIS-K terrorist launched a suicide bombing attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
"I had the news on that day and as I saw the killed-in-action numbers rising on the news, it really impacted me because my son's a Marine," said Heather Sliwinski from Warminster Township.
Sliwinski, the program director of Operation Ward 57's Honor & Courage Program, felt she needed to do something to help the families who lost loved ones. She was able to reach them by using social media.
"Over the past nine, almost 10 months, I've grown very close to these families," she said.
Sliwinski, who coordinates the Wounded Hero 5K, decided to invite these families to the 10th annual event. After a long journey from their hometowns, they arrived via trolley and motorcycle escort. Local police and veterans contributed to the warm welcome.
"You know, they're from all across the country and they come to Warminster Township and they see people care enough to come out here and honor their sons and daughters," said Sliwinski.
One of the Gold Star parents was Darin Hoover, father of Staff Sergeant Darin Taylor Hoover. His son, who was 31 years old at the time of the attack, dreamed of becoming a Marine since he was a child. He always loved being with family, friends, and helping people.
"Ultimately, he fulfilled that and we couldn't be more proud of him," said Hoover. "And to come to these events is something special. We've got a special bond and it's like no other."
Another parent in attendance was Jim McCollum from Jackson, Wyoming. His son, 20-year-old Rylee, had just gotten married earlier that year and was expecting a child. His daughter was born three weeks after he was killed.
"Come to find out he was directly in front of the suicide bomber," said McCollum. "He was right in the middle of it, doing what he was supposed to be doing."
The Gold Star parents in attendance encouraged the crowd to be active and create the change they desire in their communities. They also recommended individuals make donations to young adults who are just beginning their journeys to join the armed forces.
The event culminated with a walk and run where 13 individuals carried flags bearing the names of each service member killed in the attack.
The total funds raised will contribute to the ten-year total of roughly $200,000 that has gone to support wounded heroes who have served the country.
To learn more about the Wounded Hero 5k, visit their website.
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