FORT SAM HOUSTON, TEXAS (April 4, 2016) -- Kelvin Triggs considers himself to be a loner. His days are busy as he manages a small business and takes care of his teenage son Nick. He says that it is hard for him to associate with new people outside of work and church.
Triggs' life forever changed in 2011 when he became a widower. His wife, Master Sgt. Marcia Triggs, was an Army journalist assigned to the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs in Chicago, Illinois. A veteran himself, Triggs suddenly went from being a military spouse to a Gold Star spouse -- the unique name given to surviving Family members because of the gold pins they receive from the military.
Immediately after Marcia's passing, Army Survivor Outreach Services coordinators contacted him, and he connected with Lori Dean, a support coordinator at the Fort Sam Houston office.
"It's comforting that I can call Lori and talk to her about anything," he said.
While he's had many one-on-one sessions with Dean and other program coordinators, he remains hesitant about participating in social activities and meeting other survivors.
Gold Star husbands like Triggs are, after all, a small but growing group in the survivor community.
"With the way society is changing, surviving male spouses are more welcomed now than they were in the past. Many of these spouses are veterans, retirees or active-duty service members," said Dean. "They are all survivors, and that's what really matters."
Noticeable changes are already happening. The national observance Gold Star Wives' Day, held on April 5 of each year, recently evolved to Gold Star Spouses' Day as directed by U.S. Department of Defense guidance.
According to Dean, husbands are also eligible to join organizations such as the Gold Star Wives of America, Inc., but many men like Triggs are reluctant.
"For long time, I thought I was a circle trying to fit into a square peg, because the group was predominantly women," Triggs said. "I didn't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable if I started tagging along to the events."
With the SOS program coordinators' encouragement, he is now making an effort to meet other survivors.
Similarly, in response to the increased number of male spouses interested in SOS, Dean and her staff members are currently planning events geared specifically towards the male survivors.
"Within the last year, I noticed that we have more male spouses than ever before [using Survivor Outreach Services]," she said. "They are little nervous to come to our events. I can't blame them, because they might feel out of place being one of the few males at these outings."
Cheryl Lankford, a Gold Star wife and president of the GSWA, Inc.'s Lone Star Chapter, is open to having male spouses involved in the community, because they are an underrepresented voice.
"I absolutely love that more male spouses are involved [in the Gold Star community], because they bring a new perspective to being a survivor," she said. "As surviving spouses, we so many times depends on the advice, council and input of others who have had our same experience and have traveled this difficult path."
Triggs made a promise to himself to connect with more survivors this year. Although he is still a little apprehensive, he is hopeful about meeting them soon.
"I don't know what will happen when I meet another male spouse survivor," he said. "We probably won't focus on the past but on the present and the future instead."