SOS supports grieving families, friends
August 8, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Survivor Outreach Services (SOS), a division of Army Community Service, is a program that provides short and long-term emotional and financial counseling to support survivors of Fallen U.S. service members.
Since its inception in 2011, SOS has helped countless thousands around the world deal with the emotional and financial issues associated with their loss. Unlike other programs, SOS services are open to non-ID cardholders as well as government ID cardholders.
Annette Sanders, the SOS program coordinator at APG, said the services are for anyone going through the grieving process -- a Family member, relative or friend of a service member. Sanders explained that services on post are limited for non-ID cardholders, but noted that she does locate and refer participants to outside resources for support when the need arises.
She said the whole idea behind SOS is not about surviving a loss, but "overcoming a grief and finding a new beginning."
"It does not matter how the service member died," she said. "SOS identifies the needs of others touched by the loss of a service member and demonstrates the Army's commitment to Families of the Fallen."
The SOS mission can be found on the garrison website at http://www.apg.army.mil/apghome/sites/local/. It states that along with extending support to Families by maximizing cooperation between government and non-government agencies, SOS ensures survivors receive all benefits they are entitled to and encourages survivors to remain a part of the Army Family.
The site also contains a virtual wall honoring Fallen service members as well as links to related sites such as Gold Star Wives of America, Inc., Army One Source, and more.
Earlier this year, SOS parking signs for survivors were installed in parking lots on the installation at the commissary, Post Exchange, Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic, post recreation centers and ACS.
Garrison APG routinely invites survivors to APG events such as Armed Forces Day, Veterans Day and U.S. Army Soldier Show. The annual Gold Star Families Breakfast has become a tradition along with several other events. In addition, Families of Fallen Soldiers who were killed in action (KIA) can contact the SOS office for information about how to receive a civilian ID card for easier access to installation facilities.
After the death of a Soldier, the surviving Family is assigned a casualty assistance officer (CAO), who assists with the burial process and any other obligations the Family may encounter. After the CAO mission is fulfilled, the Family then comes under the care of Sanders and the SOS program.
Sanders' region includes APG's neighboring counties, Northern Maryland, parts of the Eastern Shore and Southern Delaware. She often coordinates or combines events with the Fort George G. Meade SOS office.
Janice Chance, president of the Maryland Chapter, American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., has nothing but praise for Sanders-Nash, SOS and the APG Garrison.
"They [the garrison] told us she would be there to assist us and she has really gone out of her way," Chance said. "Any concerns we have, she makes sure those issues are addressed. She listens to us, keeps us apprised of post events and finds ways to keep us connected to APG."
Chance said she was overwhelmed when she first saw the SOS parking signs on post.
"APG goes a step further than [other installations]. Those signs let us know that we are part of the APG Family and that they will take good care of us. They always treat us like royalty. I was overjoyed."
For more information about Survivor Outreach Services, call Sanders at 410-278-2861 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org