It’s one of the most powerful pictures from the Iraq war: an 8-year-old, his lip trembling, is handed a folded flag at his father’s funeral. Watch video here.
The iconic image inspired a family friend – someone the young Christian Golczynski had never met – to send him a present and, later, to launch a foundation that helps hundreds of kids just like him.
Every year, A Soldier’s Child sends children of fallen soldiers gifts on their birthday. Christian’s father, Marine Staff Sgt. Marcus Golczynski, was killed in Iraq in 2007, so Christian was the first recipient. Now, there are 1,200 in 46 states.
Aaron Thompson / Daily News Journal / AP
Christian Golczynski, 8, receives the flag that covered the coffin of his father during a graveside service in 2007.
“It’s letting these kids know…you’re not invisible to us, we recognize what you go through and how you serve our country,” said Daryl Mackin, the group’s founder. “I mean, imagine missing your parents on your birthday, you know, Christmas, Thanksgiving, all the special days, you know, you hit the home run and your dad’s not there.”
And six years after that famous photo was taken, Christian is doing his part to carry out the mission of A Soldier’s Child and make the holidays easier for other military children.
Christian is 15 now, a sophomore in high school and a goalie on his lacrosse team. He and his mother, Heather, are “adopting” other military families, picking out presents so they don’t feel forgotten during this holiday season.
“I really just hope that they feel like I did the first year when I got it,” Christian said. “Just really nice inside…the thought of knowing that someone else is thinking about you over the holidays.”
In 2010, the Golczynskis adopted Connor and Cooper Bunting, ages 6 and 4, whose father, Army Capt. Brian “Bubba” Bunting was killed in Afghanistan just days before their mother, Nicki, learned she was pregnant with the younger boy.
“It was really, really special,” Nicki Bunting said of the care package, which included child-sized lacrosse sticks and child-sized footballs, representing her husband’s favorite sports. “It was just so neat to just see my kids light up and get this package full of stuff.