By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Garrison KaiserslauternApril 5, 2013
LANDSTUHL, Germany -- Surviving family members of fallen Soldiers gathered recently at U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern for a luncheon held in their honor by Survivor Outreach Services.
The April 4 event, sponsored by the SOS programs in Baumholder, Wiesbaden and Kaiserslautern, was held at the Landstuhl Community Club. About a dozen women and children attended, plus Army leaders from each garrison. April 5 is Gold Star Wives Day.
"The Army made a covenant to support Soldiers in good time and bad," said Basil Forrest, 49, the SOS coordinator for U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder, who organized the luncheon. "We're here to help their families when the Soldier is deceased."
In Germany, survivors face unique challenges, to include financial and banking issues based on their status, Forrest said. At times, Forrest said, survivors need tax assistance and translation services and grief counseling.
In 1981, on Easter Weekend, Stephanie Ide lost her husband, Cpl. Timothy Scott Ide, to a drunk driver. An infantryman stationed in Baumholder, he was riding his motorcycle to meet his wife at the movies when the accident occurred.
SOS is an Army-wide program designed to provide dedicated and comprehensive support to survivors of deceased Soldiers. Ide was when glad the Army set up SOS a few years ago, she said.
"This SOS program is priceless," said Ide, who now works as patient liaison at U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder's health clinic. "It's a huge improvement of service. It feels good to be recognized, they know that you're still there. They're saying, 'We're here for you.'"
During the event Joshua Oberfoell, a U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern administrative assistant, sang a moving a capella version of Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings." Afterward, Pamela Koch from Installation Management Command Europe Region explained the history of the Gold Stars Wives.
Widows from World War II began Gold Star Wives began in 1945, Koch said. It has roughly 10,000 members in 53 chapters. GSW, a private organization, provides service, support and friendship to military widows and widowers. In Europe, garrison SOS staff support families of the fallen - those who died in combat and from other causes while on active duty.
Now, there is a plan to create parking spaces on Army posts for survivors, a recognition that offers more than just convenience for them.
"It's a way to honor family members and raise awareness about the sacrifices survivors make," Koch said.
Maj. Gen. Aundre Piggee, commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, and his wife, Kassi, met with the survivors. Offering them gift baskets, Piggee said the event honored those who died and their loved ones who also sacrificed.
"You volunteered to love your Soldier, who has given all," Piggee said. "This is just a small token to say thanks to you and demonstrate what you mean to us. Our commitment is that we will never forget you. We'll always provide you with whatever support you need."