Fort Sill Gold Star families raise awareness
June 6, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Perhaps one of the greatest fears of any military family is finding out that a loved one has died while serving.
Although this fear became a reality for her when her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Clifford Beattie, was killed in Iraq two years ago, Chief Warrant Officer 2 and Gold Star wife, Karen Beattie, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, turned that time of pain into a process of healing. She did that by organizing an awareness campaign for Gold Star families.
"One of the main things a couple of other survivors and I wanted to do was to spread awareness of what Gold Star families are," said Beattie. "It's unfortunate to say that the reason I really wanted to do this was so many Soldiers within my own ranks don't even know what that designation means. I wanted to spread awareness within the ranks as well as across the community because I think people do care and they want to care, but if they don't know about it they're not able to."
Beattie worked with Fort Sill's Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) to raise awareness of what Gold Star families are. SOS and volunteers handed out gold stars at the commissary here, allowing people to write messages of support and gratitude to Gold Star families.
Volunteers from the 31st ADA and the Lawton-Fort Sill community also handed out gold stars during the Armed Forces Day Parade in Lawton, helping community members reach out to Gold Star families.
Gold Star families were presented the stars during a Gold Star family reunion at Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area here. The event featured games for the children, and allowed Gold Star families to meet each other and share stories of their loved ones. The afternoon culminated with a balloon release; each balloon had a hand-written message the families wrote to their loved one.
Christy Schrock, SOS financial counselor, says these events are held to give Gold Star families a chance to network.
"Having events like this is an awesome opportunity for Gold Star families to get together and hopefully walk away with some new friendships and some positive memories," she said.
Schrock added SOS is here to assist Gold Star families in any way possible.
"We have many dedicated resources and are committed to providing assistance for as long as the family desires," said Schrock. "We provide financial counseling, referrals for grief and loss counseling, and many other types of resources to ensure survivors receive all the benefits which they are entitled. We honor the service and sacrifice of our fallen Soldiers and are committed to remembering and providing assistance to those they left behind."
Shrock said SOS personnel work with other government and non-government agencies to ensure families receive educational assistance, child care and scholarships they are entitled to.
"We work to make certain all survivor's needs are met," she said.
Beattie also stressed the importance of SOS to Gold Star families.
"The number one resource they need to use is Survivor Outreach Services," said Beattie.
"They are located across the country. There are different branches in different locations. Survivor Outreach Services has been amazing to me, and I guarantee they will be amazing to any Gold Star family member. They will provide them with any and all information Gold Star families need," she emphasized.
Beattie offered a message of hope and support to all Gold Star families out there.
"They need to know they are not alone. Just because someone doesn't know the meaning of the Gold Star family designation doesn't mean they don't know about the families of the fallen," she said.
Beattie said it's important for families of fallen Soldiers to know they aren't alone.
"They just need to reach out, and I can guarantee the support for them will be overwhelming, she said."