Ken Wasley Story
💔 Embracing Broken Hearts to Build Strong Bonds 💖
by Ken Wasley, President and Founder of Children of Fallen Heroes
In my life's journey, I've faced heartache, loss, and countless challenges. It's those very experiences that have shaped my path and led me to a purpose I'm deeply passionate about.
With a background in owning Salons and Spas, Tech Marketing Consulting including partnerships with Wellness Centers, and Construction Development, I've gained invaluable knowledge and skills. But I realized it was time to pivot from those industries and serve a greater purpose.
Fifty years ago, in 1973, a tragic incident in Silk Hope, NC claimed the lives of my father and 13 members of the US Army Parachute Team, Golden Knights. This devastating event marked the beginning of my own story, characterized by heart-wrenching loss.
At the tender age of 4, I bid farewell to my father, a military hero who had selflessly dedicated his life in service to his country. Growing up without his presence meant navigating the complexities of life without the invaluable professional guidance and counseling that I desperately needed.
As the years unfolded, I found solace and purpose in dedicating over two decades to giving back to adaptive military veterans and assisting those in need within assisted living homes. The profound impact of these losses, however, was far from over. In 2020, tragedy struck again when I lost my beloved boy to a senseless act of a drunk driver.
These successive losses have left my heart shattered, and yet, through the pain, I strive to honor the legacies of my father, the Gold Team Members, and my precious boy by continuing to contribute to the well-being of others.
In 2015, I founded the Children of Fallen Heroes nonprofit organization with a deep commitment to supporting the families of fallen military and first responders. My advocacy efforts, particularly through the Honoring Heroes Tour, have enabled the CFH Parachute Team to showcase their talents in front of millions of supporters nationwide. (4.5 million last in 2022) Over the years, I've had the privilege of assisting thousands of families. With the wealth of experiences gained and your unwavering support, our mission extends beyond changing lives; CFH is actively mending the broken pieces of shattered hearts and forging enduring bonds that will stand the test of time. But in the midst of this pain, I realized that life has a way of revealing profound truths. My experiences taught me that our fallen heroes' parents also serve our community, often unnoticed. This realization ignited a profound transformation within me. Why limit our support to only the children of fallen military and first responders? That's when I decided to open up our programs to offer assistance to foster kids and caregivers including a variety of community outreach initiatives. When I brought all these groups together, something truly magical happened—they discovered they were not alone. In the shared pain and shared hope, they found strength, understanding, and a sense of belonging. Through our Retreats and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Education programs, we're not just offering knowledge, but we're also mending broken hearts. We're giving these families a chance to heal, to connect, and to rebuild their lives. I also realized that to truly support the next generation, we needed to provide a strong foundation. That's why I extended our reach to include surviving spouses, guardians, divorced, separated, and caregivers, as they are the bedrock upon which the future stands. If this foundation is broken, it affects the well-being of the child. On the Commemorative 50th Anniversary of my father and Gold Team members passing, I turned a negative into a positive by embarking on a poignant journey with the Golden Knights and Paraclete XP. We commemorated the occasion with a symbolic jump at the site of the accident, surrounded by the indomitable spirit of the Golden Knights. Alongside surviving family members, we descended from the skies adorned with Old Glory, the Red & Blue Line Flag, and the specially crafted 50th Commemorative Flag, skillfully parachuted in by Cheryl Stearns, an International Skydiving Hall of Famer and Alumnus Golden Knight. Driven by a profound sense of purpose, I felt compelled to extend this transformation into a broader initiative. In pursuit of creating a meaningful impact, I invested in acquiring 82 acres in North Carolina, aptly christened with the name "Children of Fallen Heroes" on the title. This property serves as more than just land; it's a symbol of resilience, hope, and a commitment to the well-being of those affected by the loss of loved ones in service. Home of the Children of Fallen Heroes Retreat and STEAM Education Center in Moore County, NC, moments from Fort Liberty (Bragg). Beyond the physical space, my vision extends to the creation of a safe haven, a community where individuals from all walks of life can come together to address generational mental conditioning and reignite the flame of hope. This endeavor is deeply personal to me, rooted in the memory of my father and the shared experiences of those who have lost heroes. I extend an invitation for you to join our mission. Together, we can transcend the boundaries of solitude and forge connections that bridge the gaps left by loss. Let us work hand in hand to create a world where no one ever feels alone, where the echoes of heroism resonate through the collective spirit of a community united in support and understanding. If you have faith and believe in the power of healing, of connection, of giving back, please reach out to me. Let's start a discussion right here, right now. Together, we can mend broken hearts and build unbreakable bonds. 💗 #Nonprofit #Community #GivingBack #PurposeDrivenLife #Hope #Inspiration #ChildrenOfFallenHeroes #STEAM #MakingADifference 🌈💪💕
Video & Photos above:
Michael Wasley's contributions to the skydiving world and his service to the country as a member of the U.S. Army Parachute Team, Golden Knights, demonstrate his dedication and passion for the sport. He was a versatile and accomplished skydiver, excelling in different aspects of the sport and leaving a lasting impact on the skydiving community.
Our family's greatest supporter, my father.
SGM James Walter Kraft's service to our country is truly admirable. In addition to being a retired Army Sergeant Major and a 1976 Golden Knight of the Year, his bravery and sacrifice are also evidenced by his receipt of the Silver Star and 2 Bronze Stars during his tour of duty in Vietnam. These awards reflect his courage and commitment to serving our nation, and he is a true hero in every sense of the word. His contributions to our country and his family are a testament to his strength of character and dedication to serving others. As my stepfather, he has been an invaluable presence in my life, providing unwavering support and guidance that have helped our family navigate life's challenges and achieve goals. I am truly grateful for his love and the positive impact he has had on the Wasley family life.
In Memory of my boy.
In the photos are pictures taken by the US Army Golden Knights, The Tandem Team. Pictured is my boy Dylan, grandson of SGT Michael Wasley tandem skydiving. Special thank you to Army, SGM, Bryan Schnell,(Ret) for helping facilitate Dylan's first skydive experience during his Opa's U.S. Airborne and military family history tour.
Dylan was a young man with a passion for cooking that began at an early age, thanks to the influence of his grandmother. His grandmother had culinary skills that rivaled those of a five-star chef, including an incredible ability for baking.
Despite not attending culinary school, Dylan honed his skills over the years and worked his way up from waiting tables to working in the kitchen. His talent and dedication to his craft were evident, and eventually, he earned a chef jacket at a prestigious five-star French restaurant.
Sadly, Dylan's promising future was cut short when he was killed in a tragic car crash that was caused by a drunk driver. His family and friends were devastated by the sudden loss of such a bright and talented young man. But even in death, Dylan's memory lives on, as he made a difference in the lives of so many people.
Dylan's love for cooking and the culinary arts will forever be remembered by those who knew him. The joy he found in creating delicious meals for others is a testament to his passion and talent. Despite the pain of his loss and living with grief daily, my family takes comfort in knowing that Dylan made a positive impact on the world and brought joy to so many people. His memory will continue to inspire and comfort those who knew and loved him.
I love you, my boy, see you and Dad in heaven when my time is done here on earth.
Below is Dylan's elementary school project showcasing his compassion and why he is an important part of our legacy here at Children of Fallen Heroes.