FORT BENNING, Ga. (June 8, 2018) - Four teams of four, which included Gold Star Family members and Fort Benning senior leaders, played the Marshall Nine at the Fort Benning Golf Course June 2.

Fort Benning Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) organized the golf scramble and barbecue cookout that followed.

Before the scramble began, the participants gathered at the clubhouse, where Col. Townly Hedrick, the U.S. Army Infantry School assistant commandant, spoke about the meaningfulness of those service members lost in the line of duty.

"Every Soldier, Marine, Airman, Seaman who has worked with those service members, you will never forget them," he said. "We will never forget your lost service member. We just won't because they've had that lifelong impact on us."

Events such as the golf scramble happen throughout the year. The golf scramble and cookout is aimed specifically at Gold Star fathers, those fathers who have lost their service member son or daughter in the line of service. For Gold Star mothers, there is a brunch event annually in September. Another brunch event is held for Gold Star spouses in April. Megan Baumgartner, Fort Benning's SOS coordinator, said their organization's Christmas party is the event more closely focused on Gold Star children.

"We want the survivors to come out - not just the fathers but the Families in general - to have a venue to socialize, to fellowship more with other Family members," said Baumgartner. "No one knows what you're going through better than another Gold Star father, another Gold Star spouse.

"We all have different needs and feelings and ways that we want to recognize our service member, our loved one," continued Baumgartner. "Today we celebrate and we honor and we remember and we play golf. And we eat hamburgers and hot dogs and we give each other a hard time about how horrible we did on the course. That's how we are recognizing and remembering and celebrating as fathers."

Survivor Outreach Services, or SOS, provides support to the family members of U.S. military service members who died in the line of service. The organization also provides financial counseling, referral services to governmental and non-governmental organizations, special monthly events and monthly steering committees.

Bill Stout, a Gold Star father and resident of Villa Rica, Georgia, visited for the event. His son Spc. Brandon Stout was assigned to the 46th Military Police Company, 210th Military Police Battalion, Army National Guard, of Kingsford, Michigan, and died Jan. 22, 2007, during his deployment to Iraq. Before Brandon joined the National Guard, the Stouts were not involved in the military.

"I appreciate everything the military has done to honor my son," said Stout. "That's something I never realized before, the great respect that they have and the brotherhood that they have - everything they have done to honor my son."

Other Gold Star Families were on hand for the event as well. Shelly Hall, whose husband 2nd Lt. Kelly Hall died while their family was in Germany in 1998, remembered how difficult the process was back then and the strides the Army had taken to improve since.

"The military in general is doing a better job at preparing the Family for the possibility of death, and then if it does occur, they embrace the Family where they didn't do that before," she said. "There are some great organizations that are in place today that were not in place then, and Survivor Outreach Services is one of them. It's a great way to let the Families know that their loved one is not forgotten and that the Family is welcome."

Concerning the support the Army now provides Gold Star Families, Baumgartner spoke of how that support endures for the Family members.

"We have a Family member who is nine months old right now," she said. "If that Family member wants us in his life when he is 50 years old, he is still a Gold Star Family member, and we will take care of him when he is 50 years old."

Of the four teams in the golf scramble, Justin Booth, Fort Benning Garrison Commander Col. Clinton W. Cox, Shawn Gillette, and Tori Hall took first place.

To learn more about the Fort Benning Survivor Outreach Services, visit https://benning.armymwr.com/programs/survivor-outreach-services.