Program supports soldiers' survivors

The sacrifices of fallen soldiers are shared by those they leave behind.

Survivors Outreach Services, a new program of Fort Gordon's Army Community Service division, is designed to make dealing with the loss of a loved one a little simpler.

"The services that we are offering have been in place, but the Army's goal through SOS is to make these services more accessible," said Vanessa Stanley, the Army Community Service director. "Before, people had to figure out who to go to for different things, and often that meant going to several different offices. Now people know who to go to."

Angela Gaston, the program's benefit coordinator, will help survivors obtain benefits after their casualty assistance officer has relinquished responsibilities.

"Benefits aren't limited to monetary benefits. There are so many other things that are out there for them," she said. "Our goal is to make sure that the survivors and their families receive the benefits they should be receiving as survivors."

Often the fallen soldier was the person doing the family's budget, so survivors also need guidance on finances, said Sonya McCaw, the program's financial counselor.

"I'll teach and educate the survivor about what a budget is and making sure they have a budget in line," she said. "Also, when they receive their benefits, we make sure they are educated on the different financial options available. I will also present classes on a monthly basis about different financial topics."

Survivors are also encouraged to participate in the program's support group, which held its first meeting July 14. It was an idea that grew out of the Army Community Service's quarterly survivors forum, said Suzanne Crosby, support coordinator.

"The military culture is very different from being in the civilian world," she said. "These survivors are looking for people who understand that component of their grief process. In some ways, the forum becomes like a support group, because they start sharing, and you can tell it's very helpful for them."

For now, the group meets once a month, but the frequency and timing of the meetings will be determined by the participants, she said.

Other services available through the program include life-skill seminars and counseling.

Survivors of soldiers who were killed on active duty and soldiers or veterans who died of service-connected disabilities may participate in the program, Ms. Stanley said.

"We are reaching out to survivors of fallen soldiers that go back as far as World War II," she said. "Also, we know that there have been National Guard or (Army) Reservists who were activated and were killed in battle. Their survivors can call us as well. Our staff will work with them and the National Guard or the (Army) Reserve to get them the support that they need."

For more information about the Survivor Outreach Services program, call (706) 787-4767 or visit www.gordon.army.mil/acs.


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