HEIDELBERG, Germany -- When wounded warriors in the Heidelberg area go to the Soldier and Family Assistance Center, they will find the friendly face of someone who says her favorite part of her job is simply talking with Soldiers.

Rose Parker is the SFAC specialist in Heidelberg, a position she's had for a little more than a year. She was the lone employee when the SFAC here opened in November 2007, and helped the other regional employees transition in to their positions as time went by.

"It's very rewarding to help somebody figure out 'where do I go next''" she said. "So much of what I have learned from life has come from the school of hard knocks, and that doesn't come with diplomas."

The Army Family Covenant-sponsored SFAC is a one-stop assistance center for helping wounded warriors with their needs. They can get guidance and assistance on employment and education services as well as other support agencies they may need to work with.

"They can expect to be welcomed," Parker said. "They can expect that there's someone that's going to listen to them. We're not going to try to tell them what to do; we're going to help them figure out what to do."

Parker has been a disabilities advocate for more than 20 years, beginning with her own children - three of her four children were in special education. She was a family advocate working with her children and then others' children before working for the state of Virginia in early intervention. She's also worked at Virginia Tech in advocacy and family support as well as being a disabilities minister for two dioceses.

Parker tells visitors to the SFAC that the main thing to remember in her line of work is that every Soldier is different. Their healing needs are different, so one of the most important things they can do for a Soldier and his family is just listen to them.

"We find out where they are, what their goals are, what they hope to be able to do, and then try to figure out ways to get them there," she said. "They may want to stay on active duty, but that becomes not possible. They may think they are going to be getting out and then find out they can stay on active duty.

"So it's kind of helping them rediscover who they are with these new injuries. That's the real healing piece of it."

Parker said wounded warriors coming to the SFAC will receive hospitality to make them feel more comfortable, such as snacks or cold drinks, as well as a place to sit and think for a while about all the different things that are happening to them. Sometimes, Parker and the staff will even clear off the conference room table and help Soldiers organize all their paperwork.

"We've done that more than once with the conference room table - just spread out, look at everything, put things in piles ... help them get things organized," she said.

Overall, even though Parker has only worked for the Army a little more than a year, she said she loves the job and the chance to help.

"I love working with the Soldiers," she said. "When we hit the roadblocks, we all feel it, but it's the type of thing where you get real attached to them and then you have to send them off - it's like letting the fledglings go."

Page last updated Thu January 29th, 2009 at 04:28