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Remembering Our Fallen Heroes: The Story Behind the Children of Fallen Heroes Nonprofit

Photo /Anthony Munoz, Children of Fallen Heroes

On March 8, 1973, a tragic plane crash in Silk Hope, NC claimed the lives of 14 US Army Parachute Team Gold members, including Michael Wasley, the father of Ken Wasley. This devastating loss inspired Ken to start the nonprofit organization Children of Fallen Heroes, which provides financial and emotional support to children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Silk Hope tragedy, let us remember the sacrifice and service of these brave soldiers and first responders including the ongoing work of the Children of Fallen Heroes to honor their memory and support their families.

Thanks to the participation of the US Army Parachute Team, Golden Knights, the Golden Knight Alumni, Paraclete XP, Silk Hope Volunteer Fire Department, and Chatham County Sheriff’s Department, the commemorative event was a beautiful display of community and support. As the Golden Knights’ Tandem Team parachuted Jamie Talavera and Kriston Bertelsen, granddaughters of SSG Jim Rice, and Gena Wasley, daughter of SGT Michael Wasley, the crowd couldn't help but feel a sense of pride and patriotism. Several other parachute jumps were made into the crash site during the commemoration. Joe Alben of The Children of Fallen Heroes Parachute Team jumped in Chief Mark Gaines of the Silk Hope Volunteer Fire Department. Joe is also a Golden Knight alumnus. Gerald Newlin of the family who own the farm and crash site was tandem jumped by a current member the Golden Knights.

Golden Knights Alumna Cheryl Stearns carried the 50th Commemorative Anniversary Flag. Deputy Sheriff Jim Burris jumped with the Red and Blue Line Flags. Sarah Burris brought in Old Glory, while 14-year-old Karrisa gave a remarkable performance of the national anthem.

Video Production by Ken Wasley Founder Children of Fallen Heroes

Video features:

Surviving Tandem Skydivers with US Army Parachute Team, Golden Knights Tandem

Honoring SSG Jim Rice

Granddaughters Kriston Bertelsen & Jamie Talavera

Golden Knight Alumni, Tandem Instructor Joe Abeln Mark Gaines, Deputy Chief Silk Hope Volunteer Fire Department

US Army Parachute Team, Golden Knights Tandem Gerald Newlin,

50th Commemorative Anniversary , US Army Parachute Team, Gold Team Members:

PFC Paul D. Albritton


SSG Joseph C. Barbarick


SGT Michael G. Buckley


SSG Bartley L. Bullington


SSG Cecil E. Davis


CW3 Richard A. Del Conte


SSG Raymond C. Kinser, Jr.


SGT Edward M. Parrish


CW2 Rodney H. Pease


SSG Joseph B. Pelter


SSG James F. Rice


SGT Michael D. Wasley


SFC Francis P. Welch


SSG Robert T. Wolfe

Surviving family members jumping from over 12,000 feet from Skydive Paraclete XP Raeford Otter plane with U.S. Army Parachute Team, Golden Knights landing softly at the crash site in Silk Hope, NC.

Sarah Burriss, Children of Fallen Heroes Parachute Team bringing in Old Glory at the crash site in honor of the 14 brave men including their families and loved ones.

50th Commemorative Anniversary, Silk Hope NC group photo including surviving family members, Golden Knight Alumni, U.S. Army Parachute Team, Skydive Paraclete XP, Silk Hope Volunteer Fire Dept., Chatham County Sheriff's.


Ken, the son of SGT Michael Wasley, has acquired 82.5 acres in Moore County, NC, near Fort Bragg and Pinehurst. In a heartfelt gesture, he has generously gifted this land to the Children of Fallen Heroes. The purpose is to establish a Retreat and STEAM Education Center catering to the children of fallen military members, first responders, foster kids, caregivers, and various community outreach programs.

This initiative is a tribute to the Golden Knights Alumni and a lasting memorial to SGT Michael Wasley and the 13 Gold Team Members, including all our fallen knights. It is envisioned as a beacon of support, offering solace and educational opportunities for those affected by the sacrifices of our heroes. Together, we stand united in the spirit of Black and Gold Forever!

Ken Wasley signing the final land agreement documents at Lorenz and Creed Law Firm, PLLC in Southern Pines. L-R: The Commander of the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights; Kyle Owens, Farmers Credit Bank; Angela Navarro, Golden Knight alumni; Kenneth Wasley, Founder and President of Children of Fallen Heroes; Britt Harris, Director of Programs for Children of Fallen Heroes; and Tracy Dowd, real estate agent.

Courtesy of David Sinclair

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