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Family remembers Kayla Mueller year after death

Posted: 9:00 AM, Feb 04, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-04 11:00:32-05
Family remembers Kayla Mueller year after death
Family remembers Kayla Mueller year after death
Family remembers Kayla Mueller year after death
Family remembers Kayla Mueller year after death
Family remembers Kayla Mueller year after death

This week marks one year since a Prescott-native and humanitarian Kayla Mueller died while held hostage by ISIS militants.

The 26-year-old traveled to Syria in 2013 on a humanitarian mission and was taken captive, where she was held hostage for 18 months. On Feb. 6, 2015, ISIS reported Mueller had been killed in a Jordanian air strike.

"The last two and one half years have taken a heavy toll on our family and friends as well as those who came to know Kayla's story this past year," the family said in a statement released to the media on Thursday.

"Rather than mourn her, we ask that you celebrate her and her commitment to serving the most vulnerable in truth for peace and with compassion and justice. Remember what truly matters in this time we are all given on this earth."

FULL VIDEO: Community gathers for Kayla Mueller's memorial service

Last Friday, friends and family met at Prescott's Pioneer Park for a ceremonial groundbreaking of the "Kayla's Hands" children's playground, named after the foundation dedicated to her memory.

Click here to learn more about the Kayla's Hands foundation.

Thousands of dollars have been raised to purchase the playground equipment. They still need $50,000 to make it wheel-chair accessible. If you'd like to make a donation toward the project, click here.

Mueller's identity after being taken captive was kept secret in an effort to protect her life. It was not revealed until ISIS announced her death.

She wrote a letter in Spring 2014 about her detainment and condition, saying she was "safe... unharmed...and healthy."

See her handwritten letter here.

"If you could say I have 'suffered' at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through; I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness," she says in her letter just months ago.

Read a transcript of the letter here.

"Our hearts break for Kayla and all that happened, but we know from her letters that God was with her and she is with God. Her letters were such a gift to us -- just like our “Special K” to send us what we would need to carry on. She was a remarkable young lady who always looked to see what she could do to make this world a better place," Thursday's statement read.

Read the family's full statement below:

It was one year ago this week ISIS announced the death of our only daughter, sister and friend, 26 year old Kayla Jean Mueller after 18 months of forced captivity. The last two and one half  years have taken a heavy toll on our family and friends as well as those who came to know Kayla’s story this past year. Rather than mourn her, we ask that you celebrate her and her commitment to serving the most vulnerable in truth for peace and with compassion and justice. Remember what truly matters in this time we are all given on this earth.

Kayla was given a special heart and mind to not only see suffering in its many forms but to reach out and find a way to help those God placed before her. Never deterred, yet always determined to help where she could, Kayla is honored today and always through various efforts. The heartbreaking story of our efforts to bring Kayla home and of those who helped and those who hindered us will be told.  We do not know why she was taken from us, but her uncrushable spirit and her compassionate heart, her unwavering desire to help others through peace and justice will be with us always and will lead us to the truth.  We believe and will always say: “Kayla should be here.”

In honoring Kayla we also ask that you remember those lives lost in terrorism and those still missing and held against their will. Kayla would want us to lift up and celebrate all those who have been freed and their families. She would want us to honor all those who have served our country so that we may be free. We must never forget those who have sacrificed their lives, the wounded still trying to get their lives back, and their families and friends.

Our hearts break for Kayla and all that happened, but we know from her letters that God was with her and she is with God. Her letters were such a gift to us -- just like our “Special K” to send us what we would need to carry on. She was a remarkable young lady who always looked to see what she could do to make this world a better place.

With grateful hearts,

Carl, Marsha, Eric, our family and friends