SOS Memorial honors fallen
May 24, 2013
HONOLULU -- About a dozen survivors of service members who died while on duty and about 30 supporters and onlookers gathered in the Hale Koa Hotel, May 16, to dedicate a Memorial Day display honoring those fallen.
The display, 85 framed portraits with stories and 70 pairs of boots with flags, has been lovingly arranged on custom-built wooden display boards representing the fallen.
The display was built from scratch and transported to the hotel by Col. John McClellan, deputy chief of staff engineering, U.S. Army-Pacific. A much smaller display was presented at the hotel, last year.
The brainchild of Survivor Outreach Services family support officer Elisabeth "Lis" Olsen, this special display will be up at the Hale Koa through Memorial Day.
A survivor herself (her son died in Iraq in 2007 from an improvised explosive device), Olsen is the driving force behind SOS, having nurtured it from the seedling of an idea under U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii's Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation office in 2008 to the very active outreach service it is today.
About 60 families participate on a regular basis, with roughly 189 newsletters being mailed out quarterly.
Olsen worked in the FMWR family services field for 18 years before taking over SOS.
"Lis is just great," said enthused survivor Carol Mikasobe, whose two sons-in-law are memorialized in the display. "We're not a military family, so when these tragedies hit, we had no idea whom to turn to or what to do. Lis got us civilian passes, so we can shop at the PX for Jensen's son, Bj, and if we ran into any red tape, she'd just call the colonel on our behalf.
"SOS is only an Army service; I think all the branches of the military should have one," Mikasobe said.
Olsen also makes sure the survivors stay in touch, scheduling about three or four activities throughout the year so that they can support one another, added Mikasobe.
Survivor Renald Fernandez teared up when talking about his son, Cpl. Kyle Ka'eo Fernandez, Company C, "Bobcats," 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 25th Inf. Division, whose portrait is part of the display, and he still wears his son's dog tags on a chain around his neck to remember him by.
"He would've been 35 last week, if he had lived," Fernandez anguished. "He was 26 when he died in Afghanistan in 2004. He was in the third vehicle in a convoy that got hit by an IED. Four others were in that vehicle; two survived, but my son and the passenger died.
"But he really enjoyed his job. He wanted to make the Army his career," Fernandez explained.
In his dedication, Chaplain (Col.) Peter Mueller reminded those in attendance that the families don't forget their Soldiers, and that "the greatest casualty is to be forgotten."
"Hale Koa means 'House of the Warrior,'" said Richard LeBrun, hotel general manager. "So what more fitting place to house this display than here, so that the more than 2,000 locals and military guests that pass through our hotel every week can remember our Soldiers' service to our country?"
Contact a family support officer for Survivor Outreach Services at (808) 438-9285.