CG affirms commitment to SOS partnership
October 27, 2013
I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. - Mahatma Gandhi
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The commanding general of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command has committed himself and the command to continued support of a partnership with Survivor Outreach Services established by his predecessor.
Lt. Gen. David L. Mann, who became the commanding general of SMDC in August, praised the partnership during the SOS Fall Fest, his first SOS event with the command, Oct. 26 at Redstone Arsenal's MWR Activity Field.
"We truly appreciate what the Formicas have done to take this to the next level," Mann said. "It's evident how productive this program has become by just the number of folks who have shown up here.
"We lost our son-in-law in Iraq in 2005, and we understand what our daughter went through," Mann told the survivors and volunteers gathered. "It's very important that all of you, all of the survivors who are here, know that we are your extended family and we want to make sure that you have a place to come."
Mann's wife, Robyn, echoed his commitment.
"We absolutely want to continue this, because we just think it is very important," Robyn said. "When you're in the Army, you feel like you belong, and now we want to make sure these people feel like they still belong and are still a part of the Army Family."
Mann talked about the future of the partnership.
"Robyn and I are very much committed to maintaining, if not even increasing, the momentum of this program, because we understand the importance of making sure these families remember that they're a part of the Army Family and will not be forgotten," Mann said. "This is just a very powerful event."
The Fall Fest featured lunch, pumpkin painting, arts and crafts, face painting, an inflatable bouncer and game, fall themed-photography, rope toss, volleyball, and an Army recruiter football toss and static military vehicle display. About 100 people attended, according to Kerrie Branson, Redstone Arsenal's SOS coordinator.
"SMDC showed up in full force with about 70 volunteers eager and honored to make the survivors feel welcomed, ensure the kids had a great time and remind the survivors their Soldiers will never be forgotten," Branson said. "SMDC is an organization full of amazing, compassionate people. Their dedication to honoring our Gold Star Families and survivors is heartwarming."
Mann said he was impressed with the command and the number of volunteers.
"I'm very heartened to see the number of volunteers from SMDC and elsewhere who have really taken time out of their off duty hours to come out here and to give back," he said. "It just speaks volumes about them and about their character. I'm not surprised though. This is such a fantastic command that I'm not surprised we have this number of volunteers out here."
During the event, the Manns presented a Gold Star pin to Julianne Goodridge, a Gold Star Mother who had not been officially recognized for the loss of her loved one. Goodridge's son died in 2000 in an accident in Austria.
"We want to take this opportunity to recognize you and to say that you are part of our family," Mann said. "I know this is your first event, and we hope you come back many, many times."
Mann encouraged the surviving family members to reach out to others and ensure they know about future events. Robyn talked about the impact SOS and events like this have for families.
"You can see from the interaction they are having - as with the survivor who just lost her Soldier two months ago - they can have some hope for the future by talking to other survivors," Robyn said. "The pain doesn't go away, but you learn how to deal with it. I hope that that's what this group does for these families; I hope it helps them develop friendships with fellow survivors and mentors that will help them with their recovery journey."