By Megan Garcia, Maneuver Center of ExcellenceDecember 6, 2017
Fort Benning, Ga. -- Carla Bounds could not bear the thought of celebrating Christmas two years ago. Bounds lost her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Brian Bounds, earlier that year and had to celebrate Christmas for the first time without him.
"It was rough. I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to put up a tree. I didn't want to put up any decorations," Carla said. "Honestly the only thing that saved me from any of that despair and depression and that bad stuff was the girls because I told myself I can't take away Christmas from them."
Brian suffered a stroke in June of 2015 while deployed overseas, leaving behind Carla and their two daughters.
"My entire life changed," Carla said. "I'm 41, and this was not the path that I thought was going to happen. It's like you're doing one thing, and it still blows my mind that two and half years ago I had no idea that I would be doing this. It's surreal to think that my life is 180 degrees different."
Today however Carla said she is doing much better as a result of the Army's Gold Star Program and the support of the Fort Benning Survivor Outreach Services, who hosted a special Gold Star Family Christmas Luncheon at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, Dec. 3 in Columbus, Georgia.
During the luncheon, Families fellowshipped with one another as well as with the leadership from Fort Benning. Every child received a teddy bear, and Santa was on hand to take pictures. Additionally, each household received a gift bag with gift cards from various businesses.
"We told our Gold Star Families the Army is still committed to making sure they are still a part of the team, so that is the goal. That is the purpose of the Christmas party," said Alonzo Stewart, the financial counselor for the Fort Benning SOS. "The Christmas luncheon is not something the Army tells us to do. This is something that Fort Benning does to let our Families know we have their back."
The commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Maj. Gen. Eric J. Wesley spoke to the families during the luncheon and emphasized this same sentiment.
"Nothing speaks to the word 'commitment' like Gold Star Families," Wesley said. "We want to be committed to you because you are a part of our Family, and we believe that to our soul, and this is just a small means to be able to do that."
Carla said she has felt that level of commitment not only through events like the Gold Star Family Christmas Luncheon but from the Fort Benning SOS as a whole. She added it has helped her to not feel alone in her journey anymore.
"It's been wonderful," Carla said. "I don't feel like I'm the only one anymore, and that has made a 300 percent difference in my life to meet other people who find this just as important as I do."
To learn more about Survivor Outreach Services at Fort Benning, visit https://benning.armymwr.com/programs/survivor-outreach-services