By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 15, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker Survivor Outreach Services hosted its fourth Gold Star Simulator Day at the Goodhand Simulator Complex June 10.
Nearly 40 Gold Star Family members, representing 13 fallen service members, were able to spread their wings and try their hand at flying in simulators designed to train today's Army Aviators.
Fort Rucker leadership, including Col. Shannon T. Miller, Fort Rucker garrison commander; CW5 Joseph B. Roland, chief warrant officer of the Aviation Branch; and William G. Kidd, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker deputy to the commanding general, as well as a multitude of Aviation instructor pilots were on hand to spend the day with the family members and give them a taste of Aviation training.
"There is no place I'd rather be on a Saturday morning than sitting here with Gold Star Family members, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart," said Roland. "We have a trust and a responsibility to honor you all because of the service members you lost in service to the nation.
"As a father of a service member … I can't fully grasp what you all are going through," he added. "This is a small way for us to get you together and honor your service members."
The Gold Star Family members started off with breakfast and a meet-and-greet where they were able to talk with other family members, as well as Soldiers and leaders before getting behind the simulators of some of Aviation's most well-known aircraft, including the TH-67 and UH-60 Black Hawk.
For Yolanda Brooks, Gold Star Family member, it was a perfect day to remember her son, Sgt. Curtis Glawson, who was killed in Iraq in 2007, especially because it was his birthday.
"He would have been 35 today, and it's nice to be able to celebrate his birthday today here," she said. "I really appreciate that they take the time and remember -- it really makes you feel special."
Brooks brought her grandchildren to the simulator day to not only share in the remembrance of their fallen Soldier, but to experience Army training as a way to stay connected.
"It's nice to be able to do some experiences that you wouldn't get to," she said. "This is just really special and I really appreciate it. [A loss] is something you don't wish on anybody, but it helps to be around other family members, so you're not alone."
Making sure that family members aren't alone when going through one of the toughest times of their lives is exactly why SOS exists, said Cheareice Thomas, SOS support coordinator. The event is meant as a way to bring families together at their own pace to show that support is there when they need it.
"It's really difficult to make a decision to come and be connected, especially if it's a fallen service member that was part of Aviation," she said. "This is also an opportunity for them to learn about the Aviation world and experience it, and have a connection to some of the service members who have taken some time out today to be here with us.
"It is tremendously important to continue this support," she continued. "When you go through a loss, I don't know that there is ever a time that void is filled -- it's just always there. Doing things like this is just another opportunity to embrace [the family members] and give them that hug of support for as long as they need it."
The important thing people should remember is that Gold Star Family members live with their loss every day, said Thomas, so it's important to make sure that they are taken care of every day, if needed.
"We think about them every day," she said. "When they lost, we all did -- our nation experienced a loss."