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NEWS | June 15, 2023

Gold Star Families cruise the Ohio River

By Sgt. Matt Damon, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

Gold Star family members of fallen U.S. military service men and women came together for a riverboat ride on the Ohio River June 11.

More than 350 family members of those who passed away in the line of duty were in attendance. This year was a little different though, with Survivor Outreach Services coordinating nine additional locations for departures on the same day: Harrisburg, Pa., Pittsburgh, Pa., Nashville, Tenn., Charleston, S.C., St. Paul, Minn., Portland, Ore., Hannibal, Mo., Brownville, Neb., and Cleveland, Ohio. Attendance at each location varied based on the size of the boat and the Owner’s agreement. Planning for attendees at these sites ranged from 50 to 500, with state military leadership in attendance at each event ready to greet Gold Star Families.

Family members, young and old, hailed from Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. They enjoyed the cruise up and down the river along with a meal sponsored by Northern Kentucky's B&B Riverboats.

The purpose of the day was to honor and acknowledge the surviving family members of fallen military service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.

While Gold Star children are frequently the primary recipients of themed entertainment during the cruise, there is an abundance of enjoyment available for everyone on board. This includes activities like face painting, balloon animals, engaging in crafts, and indulging in plentiful amounts of ice cream.

One of the families on board, the Bohlanders, celebrated the life of their Ohio National Guardsmen, John Breslin Bohlander.

“We look forward to these events every year,” said Laurel Bohlander, mother of John. “These events are important to families. We all share the same common grief, but we can share our loved one’s story and learn the stories of others.”

The family of Kentucky National Guardsmen Darrin Potter was also aboard. Potter was the first Kentucky Guardsmen killed in the line of duty since the Vietnam War.

Potter’s mother, Lynn Romans, reiterated what Ms. Bohlander stated and added that “Events like this are a great way to connect, renew friendships, and make new friendships.”

“Most of the Gold Star mothers and fathers know each other. We share in that grief, but we know we are there for one another,” said Romans.

This event, in addition to others throughout the year, is organized by National Guard and Active-Duty Survivor Outreach Services coordinators.

This weekend's event marks the eighth year B&B Riverboats has sponsored the event to support Gold Star Families.

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