By Carrie E. David (SMDC/ARSTRAT)April 26, 2014
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Survivor Outreach Services has been working hard to get the word out about the program and special events sponsored by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command to family members of fallen Soldiers.
Following the SOS Spring Fling at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens April 26, Kerrie Branson, SOS coordinator for Redstone Arsenal, Ala., said it is working.
"We had about 45 surviving family members show up for the Spring Fling," Branson said. "There were quite a few new survivors who attended. I think it was a combination of the great location we used for this event and more survivors understanding what we are all about."
One of the main focuses of these USASMDC/ARSTRAT-sponsored events is connections.
"It's important for survivors to make connections with other families who understand their pain and struggles," Branson said. "And it's very important for our surviving family members to be able to share stories of their loved ones."
One family member drove from Atlanta to attend the event, which was her first.
"My mom plays an active role in these events," said Jacqueline Kennedy. "Although I live in Atlanta, I decided to come and check it out."
Kennedy lost her brother, Sgt. Jeffrey Kennedy, in December 2011.
"It's a more relaxed environment than I expected," Kennedy said. "I think some people are initially put off or nervous that it's going to be sad. This was a celebration and meeting new friends. We got to reminisce and share. We brought our pictures, so we are going to make buttons of Jeffrey and enjoy the festivities."
The event featured a pot-luck style lunch, button making, rope toss, a scavenger hunt through the gardens, and a survivor huddle group where family members shared stories about their Soldiers. This is the ninth event SMDC has sponsored for SOS family members, and they have all been coordinated and executed by Lt. Col. Wes Young, chief of SMDC's Space Superiority Branch.
"We had a wonderful turnout of family members and volunteers," Young said. "We had about 50 volunteers, but we always get a large number of volunteers from the command. Many of them are returning volunteers. They come and see what it's all about, and they enjoy it and get a lot out of it personally, so they come back."
Branson thanked the SMDC volunteers for their contributions to the program.
"SOS has pushed really hard to get the message out to survivors that their community cares and wants to keep their hero's memory alive and honor their hero's service and sacrifice," she said. "SOS is truly thankful for being adopted by SMDC. They have contributed greatly to the increased interest in the program."
To learn about or get more involved with the program, visit SOS-Redstone Arsenal's Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/SOSRedstone.