65th Engineer Battalion Soldiers serve as Battle Buddies for Gold Star Children
July 2, 2012
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - Soldiers from the 70th Engineer Company (Geospatial), 82nd Eng. Support Co. and 34th Eng. Co. (Sapper), 65th Eng. Battalion, 130th Eng. Bde., 8th Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) provided companionship to Gold Star Children (children who have lost a military parent) at the Survivor Outreach Services' (SOS) Summer Solstice Potluck held at the Aloha Center, Ft. Shafter, June 26, 2012.
Families of the Fallen brought their children to this event run by the Survivor Outreach Services (SOS). Survivor Outreach Services is an Army program that provides assistance to Families of the Fallen by providing long term support through support meetings, phone calls and letters. The program is important, because when a Soldier dies families can experience disconnect because they lost their tie to the military. Even though Gold Star Families receive monetary death benefits, often times what they need is a friend.
Soldiers became friends to these families and their children during the potluck. Children participated with their Soldier Battle Buddies in nine different activities that included: making Ti leaf leis, a scavenger hunt, a drawing station, racing tulip seed pod boats, making paper cranes, making Para-cord Bracelets, writing stories about their families, making tissue paper flowers and identifying local plants. The potluck and activities gave the Soldiers, families, and children a chance to relax and share a common experience. Families brought food to share and children ran around between stations laughing and enjoying the activities. Private 1st Class Mary Steward, Information Management Officer, 70th Eng. Co. (Geospatial), 65th Eng. Bn, 130th Eng. Bde, 8th TSC, volunteered to as a battle buddy and said, "I think it's a great thing they [SOS] are doing for the kids because sometimes kids are forgotten in the process of things. Things like today will help them see that people still care."
Elisabeth Olsen, Family Support Officer for SOS and organizer of the event said, "This was an opportunity to bring survivors together for the specific purpose of introducing new survivors to older survivors. I think it's very important for children to feel like they still belong to the military."
This is crucial because when a Soldier dies, the unit loses a team member, but for the military child it means that mom or dad will never come home again. For the military spouse, their husband or wife will never return to hold them. For mothers such as Elisabeth Olsen, whose son Toby died in an IED explosion in Iraq in 2007, they will never see their sons grow old. "As a survivor and a Gold star mother I wear this pin," she said, pointing to a gold star on her shirt. "May you never, ever have to wear this pin."