Gold Star Teen Adventures

Gold Star Teen Adventures provides mentorship, leadership development, resilience training and team building for the children of our nation’s military, first responders and intelligence community who lost their lives.  The program teaches critical life skills through year around adventure opportunities and facilitates healing and a return to normalcy for those coping with the sudden loss of a parent. Their objective is to help these teenagers struggling with loss become more confident and productive young adults. Gold Star Teen Adventures was created to provide a place where youth can come together to share new experiences with others who have shared a similar journey.

COMMUNITY HERO

[com•mu•ni•ty he•ro] - noun

Any individual or group who unselfishly contributes to a greater good through their actions, determination, and influence to make a difference in their community and country.

Dale E Mathews via Logan Miller

My Father, Dale E. Mathews was a flight engineer on the HH-60 with the 56th Combat Search and Rescue squadron in the Air Force. He loved what he did, and he was good at it too.

He was only two months away from retirement after nearly 20 years in service when his helicopter, Jolly 22, was struck by a flock of geese during a low-flying training exercise, killing the crew of four, leaving the CSAR community aching.

My father is one of my biggest role models, I strive every day to be as loving and selfless as he once was. Today, I’m currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Wildlife Biology at the University of Montana with the goal of becoming a Game Warden.

I’ve been involved with Gold Star Teen Adventures for about six years now, earning numerus amounts of experience and certifications including my Rescue Diver, Wilderness First Aid, and Swiftwater rescue certifications.

GSTA changed my life, that first adventure I went on was the happiest I had been in a long time. That week, I knew that I wanted to be involved with GSTA for as long as possible,

I am no longer attending GSTA adventures as a teen, but now as a part of the leadership, trying my best to help provide those same amazing opportunities and warm welcomes that I once experienced on every single adventure.

James Henry via Kaylee Stapley

My father, TSgt James Henry, was an intelligent, caring, and compassionate individual who valued his loved ones more than anything in the world. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served as a loadmaster on AC-130’s within the Air Force Special Operations Command. He took great pride in his professional career, but he was more proud that doing what he loved allowed him to provide for his family. 

My dad didn’t have much growing up. While my grandfather always did the best he could to provide for his sons, my dad and his brothers experienced more than their share of hardships. While this could have had a long-lasting negative impact on a lot of individuals, my dad used his personal experiences in life as motivation to be the best possible version of himself.

Sadly, he passed away on March 31, 2005, when his aircraft crashed in the mountains of Albania, along with eight others. I was nine years old. In the short period of life that I shared with him, my dad taught me to be kind, and he taught me to be grateful. Because of him and the choices he made in his life, I have lived an incredibly privileged one.

I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications from the University of South Alabama in 2017, and I am currently pursuing a Master of Science in Communications from Syracuse University. I am set to graduate this September, and look forward to what is to come. Additionally, I am married to the most wonderful man, who also happens to be a Gold Star son. I am proud to stand by his side, as he serves as an AH-64 pilot in the U.S. Army.

I have been involved with Gold Star Teen Adventures in many different capacities since 2014, and I consider it the honor of a lifetime. I first attended as a participant, then as a volunteer team leader, and most recently as a photographer/social media coordinator. Each role has pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but has encouraged me to use my life experiences just as my father did, as motivation to be the best possible version of myself. The healing I have experienced just from being around others who have endured similar losses, and the opportunities that GSTA has provided me with have been profoundly impactful. I truly could not be more grateful to the Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, participants, and all who support this incredible organization. You all have changed my life for the better.

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