HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Survivors of deceased fallen active-duty Soldiers have the opportunity to stay connected with the military for as long as they desire through a new Army-wide program, available at every local Army Community Service.

Survivor Outreach Services provides long-term support to family members who lost a Soldier in combat, by illness or an accident. The program assists with continued access of services, benefits and other resources for spouses, children, parents, legal guardians and siblings.

To provide a smooth introduction and transition to SOS, the program works closely with the Casualty Assistance Office. Priority to SOS are family members of fallen active-duty Soldiers, however, any widow or widower of a deceased Soldier may be eligible to receive assistance from the program.

"The survivors that I have met are very happy that this program is around," said Janine Smith, ACS SOS Europe coordinator. "They are grateful that the military has started to put something together to help them out. A lot of the survivors know that they have at least one point of contact to help them."

The program's mission is to make sure that "we embrace survivors so that they can stay a part of the Army for as long as they want," Smith said.

Since the program is a joint effort with collaboration from the Installation Management Command, the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, the Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operation Center, the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, it offers a lot of opportunities to stay connected with the military community around the world.

"(The program) is supposed to allow widows or widowers to have an agent to go to, to do follow-up care, to do assistance and make sure that all pieces of the puzzle were put together properly," said Dennis Menard, ACS Soldier and Family Assistance Center coordinator in Heidelberg.

"(They make sure) that their life is on a track where it should be versus other complications that they don't know which way to turn," Menard added.

Besides the possibility of getting ongoing support from Child, Youth and School Services, or Department of Defense Dependents Schools for example, many ACS services are available to survivors.

"If they want to look for a job, Employment Readiness will help them; if they want to go to school, there are still scholarships that they can take advantage of," Smith said.

Survivors should check with TRICARE to find out how long medical benefits are available to them.

For ACS, it is a continuation of the services they already provide for as long as people will need them, said Anissa Mayfield, ACS Outreach Program coordinator.

"We are doing what we have always done," Mayfield said. "It is just a matter of reaching out to those individuals in the community and let them know that we are here."

Since the program was established in June in Germany and in September in Italy, SOS is aware of 30 survivors Europe-wide.

According to Mayfield, the majority of survivors looking for help at ACS Heidelberg lost a retired service member - some of them passed away a long time ago.

In the event the survivors move to a different location, stateside or overseas, SOS will provide information to the nearest installation providing support.

"We are trying to make contact with as many people as we can through people knowing about people who have lost a loved one," Smith said. "Or (with) people who have been living in the community who may have lost someone 15 or 20 years ago, who really want to find out some more information about SOS."

Page last updated Thu January 7th, 2010 at 02:32