The HERO Interview – An American Hero and Her Family Never to be Forgotten

by Ray Newton

“I’ve learned that selfishness is a practice, not a place; a journet much more than a destination.” Kayla Mueller

Human rights activist Kayla Jean Mueller from early childhood had dedicated her life to serving others. That especially was true when she graduated in 2007 from Tri-City College Prep High school in Prescott and enrolled in a political science degree program at Northern Arizona University, where as an honor student, she earned her degree in 2½ years in 2009.

At NAU, she immediately became involved in the ecumenical organization United Christian Ministries.

The second child of longtime Prescott residents Carl and Marsha Mueller, Kayla was born Aug. 14, 1988. In August 2013, the dedicated Christian humanitarian was captured in Aleppo, Syria, after leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital. Islamic State of Iraq terrorists (ISIS) held her captive for more than 500 days. It was reported her primary abuser was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.

Her death was reported in February of 2015. Her body has not been recovered.

“For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal, something we just accept.” Kayla Mueller

Kayla’s Hands
Kayla was honored in August 2016 in Prescott with the dedication of a $300,000 children’s playground called Kayla’s Hands. At the edge of Pioneer Park in northwest Prescott, it was funded through contributions spearheaded by the Prescott Kiwanis Club through Kiwanis International from the Southwest District. The well-equipped, roofed playground is managed by the City of Prescott.

Memorialized in Prescott, State Capitol
A second memorial is a giclee created by Stewart Brown in Kayla’s memory that Gov. Doug Ducey
dedicated on Sept. 28 at the Arizona State Capitol. Ducey told those present, including Kayla’s parents,
“Arizona will always remember Kayla Mueller’s compassion, bravery and legacy. It is my honor to join her parents to display a commemorative painting of the raid named in her honor right here in the Capitol. Not all heroes wear uniforms.”

The painting is called Into the Breach to symbolize the 2019 raid that killed al-Baghdadi. Special thank
you to a veteran Stan Goligowski, of Prescott, who served in Afghanistan for obtaining authorization
to dedicate the painting to Kayla’s memory.