By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 1, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Memorial Day is a day of remembrance to honor Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for the nation, but it's also a day to remember the family members who also sacrificed.
Survivor Outreach Services hosted a Gold Star Family reception for Gold Star Family members and survivors at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum following the Memorial Day ceremony May 26 as a way to honor the family members of fallen service members, as well as provide support, according to Charice Thomas, SOS support coordinator.
"This is just an opportunity for us to get together with our Gold Star and survivor families to show our support of them and our care for them," she said. "It's also an opportunity for them to get together and connect with each other, as well, on a day of remembrance.
"It's extremely important that they know that we are here for them for as long as they need, especially today on a day that is so difficult for so many families -- we're here to embrace them," she continued. "Throughout the year, our office is there, but on days like this it's just extra special that we can all come together as a unit and be together."
Throughout the reception, family members were able to enjoy breakfast as they spoke with other family members, as well as Fort Rucker senior leaders, including Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general; Col. Shannon T. Miller, Fort Rucker garrison commander, and CW5 Joseph B. Roland, chief warrant officer of the Aviation Branch.
For Quentin Doby Jr., Gold Star Family member who lost his father to a heart attack when he was 9 years old, keeping that connection to the Army is an important part of his healing process.
"Being able to honor our fallen Soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice is something we have to do, and I definitely appreciate the service members coming to speak with us," said Doby, adding that it was a good opportunity to bring his son, Quentin III, and show him how close the Army family is to him and the support it provides.
"Fort Rucker is an amazing place and the support that it's given our family is amazing," he said. "As an Army family it means a lot to have that support because you want to be able to instill that same type of values and the things they did for you into your children. Just to know that somebody other than your own family has got your back is nice because this really is like an extended family."
That sense of family is what Thomas said SOS strives to provide when giving families the support they need, whether it's something a family is ready for right away or later down the line.
"From the very beginning they do a warm handoff to my office and we will be with them through support to find out exactly where they are in life," said the SOS support coordinator. "We just let them know that we're like a family and we're here as their family.
"Sometimes it's a mother, a sister, a child or sibling -- wherever they are at the time of their loss, it can be very different for each individual, so we're here to go through that entire process with them as long as they need, when they need," she said. "We have some who may not be ready to engage, so when we get that initial warm handoff we let them know that we are here for them. If they just need us to just check in we will do that."
Fort Rucker SOS serves over 400 Gold Star Families, and Thomas said staff members do their part to stay connected to each family member through a lifetime of commitment.
"As life goes on and they move into new homes, we keep that updated and stay connected to them, so they know that we're always here for them," she said.