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​Kenny Vaughan’s Dream

​Kenny Vaughan’s Dream

Posted by Linda Presley on 7th Apr 2024

Since childhood Kenny Vaughan chased a dream of winning a national championship in water-ski jumping. That dream eluded him year after year, turning instead into a nightmare from which he couldn't wake. Year after dreadful year (15 to be exact) he'd reached the national tournament only to lose in some dramatic fashion.

Every year his friends and family would encourage Kenny assuring him that this year would be his year. With a confident smile and a bravado expected from an elite athlete, Kenny would tell them that they were right.

Only he knew the truth. Only he knew how scared he was. Only he knew how fear had conquered him.

Before the 1996 tournament, his girlfriend, Tammie (now his wife), knew something was bothering him. Kenny finally let down his guard and confessed his fears to her. She knew just what to do.

To help calm his nerves Tammie used a Sharpie to write Bible scripture on the handle of his water-ski rope. Kenny appreciated the thoughtful gesture.

However, he was confused about how words on a ski rope handle could help him overcome his fear. Then he did something right. He meditated on and prayed about the scripture Tammie had written.

Then God, through His scripture, spoke to Kenny. God's Word weaved a path from the ski rope handle to his head and ultimately to his heart.

The Word of God changes lives when planted in their heart. Kenny's life changed forever.

After 15 years of failure, Kenny finally realized his dream: He won the 1996 national tournament. He learned how to act on God's Word, to be a "doer" of His Word and not just a "hearer" as one scripture in James puts it. This lesson affected him deeply and changed his life forever.

To remind himself of lessons learned he made a dog tag necklace with the scripture from his handle engraved on it. He wore it under his shirt, but it didn't take long for someone to notice it and ask about it.

Kenny shared his testimony and gave the dog tag away. He made another dog tag and experienced the same results.

Kenny realized that other people needed God's Word as much as he did, and he birthed "Shields of Strength Christian Jewelry Business" at that moment. We urge you to read Kenny's book, Shields of Strength, for the complete story, which you can find on our website.

A trend soon developed. He made more dog tags and quickly gave them away to various people, including family, strangers, young, old, men, and women.

Kenny couldn't give them away fast enough. God was at work and all Kenny needed to do was stay faithful and hold on for the ride. And what a ride it has been.

They placed the first Shields of Strength in a store in December 1998. By 2001, the product sold well in stores nationwide. One day, Colonel David Dodd noticed them and became interested.

Colonel Dodd led the 86th Signal Battalion to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. When his Command Sergeant Major contacted Kenny and Tammie about buying some in bulk they graciously gave Colonel Dodd and CSM Clay 500 Shields for their Soldiers.

Born that day was a lifelong friendship and relationship between Shields of Strength and the military. Most soldiers preferred the "tag" with the U.S. Flag and Joshua 1:9 engraved on it, becoming the most popular dog tag.

A young Army Captain named Russell Rippetoe died in action while serving in Iraq in 2003 wearing a Shield of Strength. They laid him to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, making him the first American casualty of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The SOS family felt grief over the death of this soldier.

In 2003, President Bush mentioned Captain Rippetoe's dog tag during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. He read the scripture engraved on the tag. The sudden media attention shocked Kenny and his family, and they were unprepared for what was to come.

The first phone call was from the Associated Press, followed by Fox News and CBN. Overnight Kenny's small family-run outfit was overwhelmed with the number of people wanting his dog tags. Trying to answer the phone calls and emails was like drinking from a fire hose; it was impossible to take them all.

One call Kenny didn't miss, however, was from Joe Rippetoe, Russell Rippetoe's father. Joe, a war veteran like his son, felt impressed by the Shield of Strength dog tag his son wore. He decided to give one to each soldier from Russell's unit. He and Kenny became fast friends and the elder Rippetoe became a virtual megaphone for Shields of Strength.

Kenny and Tammie have made over four million dog tags. They have given hundreds of thousands of these tags to the U.S. military and other ministries.

Stephen Mansfield, author and patriot, wrote in his book about the SOS dog tag. This dog tag is a common emblem carried by military members in Afghanistan and Iraq. They carry it along with their official insignias.

Many of America's allies wear them as well. For instance, The British Royal Army has ordered as many as 8000 at a time for their troops. Kenny is amazed by the impact Shields of Strength has had on many people worldwide. He finds it humbling and describes it as the most humbling experience of his life.

Over the years the popularity of the dog tags exponentially grew and crossed all demographics. Churches, hospitals, athletes, and others use the dog tags as tools to bring hope and help people overcome challenges in life. Life circumstances always finds a way to provide encouragement and courage through these tools. Kenny says "My favorite thing to do is to take one off my neck and give it to a stranger."

As their popularity grew so did the selection of specialty tags. From athletics to various vocations and hobbies, there's a Shield of Strength that fits most every need.

It brightens our day when we see police officers, fire fighters and EMS professionals wearing some form of SOS. Many professional athletes from a wide range of sports wear Shields of Strength Sports Jewelry as well.

We absolutely like sports and it makes us ecstatic to see famous athletes wearing our jewelry. Sometimes we feel like the young kids screaming for autographs before and after games. Professional athletes like Tim Tebow, Ronnie Coleman, and Richard Sherman wear SOS. Other athletes include Earl Thomas, Ray Lewis, Christian Michael, and Robert Griffin III.

The Rise of Fitness Jewelry

In 2011, Rodney Burks, a high school powerlifting coach, gave us an idea that sparked innovation at Shields of Strength. His idea also helped us connect with new people and explore new opportunities that we wouldn't have considered otherwise.

Coach Burks asked if we could make a replica of a weight plate necklace that his lifters could wear on a chain. After talking and drawing some designs, we agreed that we could definitely do this project.

After getting the first prototype, we realized there was a problem with the design. We found an issue with the design of the first prototype. To fix it, we decided to enlarge the hole in the middle and thread the chain through the weight plate's center. The weight plate design looked awesome!

After seeing the final prototype we knew this weight plate was a good idea. Time would prove to us just how good of an idea it was. Once the fitness crowd discovered these new weight plates, we couldn't make them fast enough. And that one idea, that one weight plate design, has now morphed and grown to include everything from dumbbells to kettlebells necklaces.

It didn't take long for some of the most influential names in the fitness industry to take notice of our unique designs. The weight plate called Shields of Strength remains popular. When people see the round plate with a chain through the middle, they know it's a Shields of Strength.

Shields of Strength has grown into a thriving Christian Jewelry Brand with the largest online collections of Men’s Cross Necklaces, Occupational Jewelry, and a rapidly growing Women’s Christian Jewelry collection; to include, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, anklets, and more. Each item is inscribed with Scripture.

Our Mission

As exciting as our growth has been, we will never let anything deter us from our true mission or vision. Today, their goal remains the same as when they first started. They aim to spread God's love, hope, forgiveness, and power through His Word. They also want to help people succeed in life and develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.

"Sometimes I'll close my eyes and think back to that day on the lake where I first heard God speak and I'm amazed. Amazed at how He used a fearful young man, a faithful woman and His powerful Word to build something I could never have imagined. I'm truly humbled by it all." - Kenny Vaughan