Hoyheim recipient of Golden Knights "Golden Baton"

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The Army's official parachute demonstration team, Golden Knights, presented the Golden Baton award to Sgt. Kari Hoyheim following their demonstration jump at the Stephen D. Shannon Athletic Complex on Sunday, Aug. 23. (Press photo by Bruce Thein)

By Caroline Rosacker

The Army's official parachute demonstration team, Golden Knights, presented the Golden Baton award to Sgt. Kari Hoyheim of Guttenberg following their demonstration jump at the Stephen D. Shannon Athletic Complex on Sunday, Aug. 23.  

The Golden Baton award is a solid mahogany baton that is passed in mid-air between members of the team during their free-fall, and is awarded to deserving Army veterans at the conclusion of each show. 

"For the United States Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, the baton is a representation of the advancement of the sport of freefall parachuting," explained Sgt. First Class Mike Koch. "It first serves as a reminder of the first two jumpers to pass a baton in freefall in 1958. This event was momentous because it proved that jumpers could make contact with each other during freefall, a task which at that time was thought to be impossible. This pushed the sport of freefall parachuting to a new level.  The baton is also symbolic to the Golden Knights. The eight sides of the baton represent the eight pieces of individual equipment a jumper must wear. The baton is awarded to recipients as a sign of our appreciation and in recognition of those individuals who have provided a great service to their community and to the Armed Forces."

The Army Golden Knights history dates back to 1959 when Gen. Joseph Stillwell formed the Strategic Army Corps Parachute competition team at Fort Bragg, N.C. 

The Team participates in events around the world and has dominated in numerous international sport parachuting competitions, winning more than 408 national championships, 65 world championships, and 14 national and six world team titles in formation skydiving.

Sgt. Kari Hoyheim

Officer Kari Hoyheim served her country as a member of the armed forces for 17 years. She was deployed to Iraq for one year, and assisted the 389th Combat Engineer Battalion out of Dubuque as a Combat Medic/Medical Specialist. "I am Army – Army leads the way! My dad was in the Army, and I enlisted because of him. My older brother Darren was also in the Army," shared the Golden Baton recipient. "I was totally surprised when I was handed the Golden Baton Award. I originally thought, when they tapped me on the shoulder, that my presence was requested because there was a police matter. I never even bothered listening to what was being said over the loudspeaker. I was focused on doing my job." 

Officer Hoyheim's trustworthy, dedicated service with the police department, and her additional duties with Clayton County's Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) has earned the community's admiration and respect. "When I realized I was being handed an award my first thought was how many more veterans there were that should be receiving the Golden Baton," the humble officer shared. "I am not from here. There are plenty of other veterans that were more deserving." 

Event security was at the top of Officer Hoyheim's agenda. "Law enforcement from the county and State Patrol were on hand as well as the fire department on the ground and in the water." She noted. "Several off-duty officers including deputies and troopers were at the event and we had UTV's and some golf carts on hand for any emergencies. My training as a combat medic had me on high alert for possible heat-related injuries. Our ambulance was there ready to go."

Hoyheim's fellow officers ensured her presence at the event with an added surprise. "I had an unexpected family event that coincided with the Golden Knights show. Chief Morteo turned down my request to take the day off." She recalled, "On the day of the event Perry Mason, sales manager for Radio Dubuque, said, 'You're with me.'"

After receiving her Golden Baton Officer Hoyheim was greeted by two of the women she served with in Iraq. She commented, "Two of the gals I served with in Iraq showed up. When I was walking back toward the crowd I was told we couldn't let people on the track. At some point Denise Schneider, City Manager, said, 'Hey Hazel Wench!' I had not been called that outside my Army family. I knew immediately that someone was there."

Officer Eric Sullivan had done some investigative work to locate Hoyheim's fellow soldiers. "Eric started snooping – and going back and forth to get them to come. Christina, aka 'Tank,' is a nurse manager for Mercy Health Care Systems in Dubuque, and Rachael, aka 'Midget,' is studying to become a nurse. I lived with these women for a year – there is no greater love than my Army family. I was floored! Officer Sullivan covered the rest of the day so I could hang out with my 'Army Peeps.'" 

Disdain of police officers is an unfortunate reality in 2020. "Right now military recruitment is huge. It blows me away that the Army Golden Knights are coming to small communities. Our size makes it much more special. I am extremely honored to receive this award," she said with gratitude.

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