By Wallace McBride, Fort Jackson LeaderJune 5, 2014
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (June 5, 2014) -- Last week, First Command Financial Services donated $5,000 to Survivor Outreach Services, an Army program that provides long-term support to the families of fallen Soldiers.
Even though Survivor Outreach Services is an Army program, extra funds are always welcome to pay for the costs of many of its most popular events, said Leslie Smith, the program coordinator for Fort Jackson.
"We have always had an issue with being able to put on special events for survivors," she said. "And, an event like the Run for the Fallen is dear to us, but it's hard to support it when you don't have the funding."
Near the end of summer each year, hundreds of runners take part in the Run for the Fallen, many of them wearing bibs bearing the names of Soldiers from South Carolina who have died since Sept. 11, 2001.
In December, Survivor Outreach Services hosts Holiday Wishes, an event that brings the families of fallen Soldiers to Fort Jackson for an annual holiday ceremony.
"We have a Christmas tree with ornaments engraved with the Soldiers' names and the dates they were lost," Smith said. "Last year, we had more than 215 family members (in attendance). A lot of them we only see once a year."
Survivor Outreach Services also organizes Gold Star events on post. The program is pushing for greater awareness of the Gold Star lapel buttons, which were established by Congress in 1947. Despite the pins' prominence, many people don't know their meaning and significance, Smith said.
"There are two separate pins that are given to families of the fallen," she said. "The gold pins are issued to the families of servicemen killed in combat; the purple pins are for families of servicemen killed on active duty status."
In order to provide coverage statewide, Fort Jackson's Survivor Outreach Services works in conjunction with the National Guard. Whereas the post's program concentrates on active duty service members, Smith works with two National Guard coordinators as a means to reach families in all 46 counties in South Carolina.
"It's a rough job, but I enjoy doing it. I've grown very close to the family members," said Smith, who is also an Army spouse. "It's a challenge. You have to be able to have compassion and understand that everyone grieves differently. We're here until they're ready. This program is designed to serve them as long as they desire."