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NEWS | Nov. 8, 2021

Survivor Outreach Services Hosts Day at the Races for Gold Star Families

By Spc. Alexander Hellmann, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Nearly 700 Gold Star Family members gathered to commemorate the tenth annual Survivor Outreach Services (S.O.S.) Day at the Races at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, Nov. 7, 2021.

S.O.S. hosts a Gold Star Family event on the first Sunday of November.

For more photos, visit us on Flickr: Survivor Outreach Services Day at the Races | Flickr

This is the single largest event for S.O.S. in America. Gold Star Families attended from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

“This event would’ve been our 12th, but our event last year was cancelled for reasons we very well know.” said David Orange, master of ceremonies and survivor services coordinator for Kentucky. “I am proud to say that we have nearly 700 Survivors of military heroes coming to us from 15 states today.”

Since the first event in 2010, HUMANA has been the sole event sponsor, where families who have lost their loved ones can come together to support one another and bond.

“This is a celebration of life.” said retired Air Guard Command Chief Master Sgt. Mark Grant and Survivors Outreach Services program manager. “We hold events like this and the riverboat tour, not just for people to remember their loved ones, but also to have a good day with other folks like them.”

The fifth race was dedicated to the S.O.S. attendees. Families attending the event were able to watch several horse races, and several individuals were allowed to join the winner of the fifth race at the winner’s circle.

For the first time in the history of the race dedicated to the survivors, the individual who held the trophy in the winner’s circle, was allowed to keep the trophy.

15-year-old Hannah Sluss-Tiller, the daughter of Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Sluss-Tiller of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was presented the trophy by the horse owner and jockey. Hannah wore her father’s Army Combat Uniform top to the event to pay tribute to her father.

“This is such an honor to receive this,” said Sluss-Tiller. “I’m so happy that I can carry on my dad’s legacy with this and be an inspiration for others like me.”

Kentucky Survivors Outreach Services also coordinates a riverboat ride event each summer on the Ohio River that the families are also invited to.

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