U.S. Army Installation Management Command leaders, community leaders and visiting dignitaries showed their appreciation for the surviving spouses of fallen service members on April 5, at a special luncheon at the Survivor Outreach Services building on Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
The nation observes Gold Star Spouses' Day on April 5. The "Gold Star" label refers to the special lapel buttons survivors receive from the military after a service member's death.
Brig. Gen. Daniel Mitchell, Deputy Commanding General for Support for IMCOM, and Sgt. Maj. Michael Hatfield, of the IMCOM G9 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate, met with the survivors as the luncheon was underway. Mitchell addressed the crowd about his newfound respect for Survivor Outreach Services, a program within IMCOM G9, and how Army leadership is committed to continue supporting the survivors' needs.
"I've been in this position for almost a year, and I learned to appreciate what Survivor Outreach Services does," he said. "I wanted to let you know that the Chief of Staff of the Army [Gen. Mark A. Milley] and our commanding general, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Dahl are great advocates of this program."
The spouses of the Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army, visiting from different states, also made a special stop to the luncheon during their garrison tour.
Accompanied by Annette Wiggins, the wife of Lt. Gen. Perry L. Wiggins, commanding general for U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) and senior commander for Fort Sam Houston, the CASA spouses learned about the SOS program by listening to the survivors' needs and concerns. Survivors also had the opportunity to personally share their stories to the visiting guests.
The event concluded with the Gold Star spouses going the garrison flagpole where the Gold Star banner flew in honor of the observance.
The spouses reflected on the day and were touched by the community's support.
Jennifer Davis, the surviving wife of Staff Sgt. Robert Davis, a Soldier stationed at Fort Sam Houston at the time of his death, was nearly speechless. Davis became a Gold Star wife in late 2015 and connected with the garrison SOS staff in early February.
"Without Survivor Outreach Services, I'd be lost," she said. "The staff is helping us get through tough times. Days like these show how they support us."
Kathy Maiorana, a Gold Star wife since 2003, expressed gratitude for the Army leaders' support.
"When Survivor Outreach Services first started [in 2008], we didn't have the great support that we have now. It's good to see military leaders come to our events and express their support to us."