Survivor Outreach Services supports through family counseling, programs

By Stephanie Santos, USAG Fort Bliss Public Affairs OfficeMarch 22, 2021

Counselor Pamela Thomas reflects in the Hall of Remembrance at the Fort Bliss Survivor Outreach Services office at Fort Bliss, Texas, March 19, 2021.
Counselor Pamela Thomas reflects in the Hall of Remembrance at the Fort Bliss Survivor Outreach Services office at Fort Bliss, Texas, March 19, 2021. (Photo Credit: Stephanie Santos) VIEW ORIGINAL
From left, Eddie Kidd, the Soldier and Family Assistance Center director, and Pamela Thomas, the Survivor Outreach Services financial counselor, provide families of survivors with continuous support and assistance through their recovery and healing journey.
From left, Eddie Kidd, the Soldier and Family Assistance Center director, and Pamela Thomas, the Survivor Outreach Services financial counselor, provide families of survivors with continuous support and assistance through their recovery and healing journey. (Photo Credit: Stephanie Santos) VIEW ORIGINAL
The Survivor Outreach Services program at Fort Bliss, Texas, offers counseling and support to surviving families. Trained counselors continue to offer counseling services to families after they depart the El Paso community.
The Survivor Outreach Services program at Fort Bliss, Texas, offers counseling and support to surviving families. Trained counselors continue to offer counseling services to families after they depart the El Paso community. (Photo Credit: Stephanie Santos) VIEW ORIGINAL

We have a commitment to survivors of fallen Soldiers to recognize their sacrifice ... they’re always part of the military family and we’re here for them as long as they need us. - Eddie Kidd, SFAC director

The loss of a Soldier is a tragedy that can leave a scary and lonely path for the loved ones they leave behind. Families are left wondering what to do and who to turn to for help during their time of grief.

Army Community Service provides a Survivor Outreach Services program that offers families continuous long-term assistance through support coordinators and financial counseling. Each counselor is trained to help survivors through their recovery and healing journey.

Soldier and Family Assistance Center Director Eddie Kidd said he stays personally involved in making sure surviving family members get all the information they need, and most importantly, assuring them that they’re not going through their grief alone.

“I’m passionate about our service members and their families. I’m dedicated to taking them through this challenging time and it echoes through my entire support team,” he said. “If we didn’t have compassion, there’s no way we could do this job. It takes so many people to make sure we are looking out for our survivors—we’re always here for them.”

Kidd reflected on meeting families of the fallen and said there’s always going to be those “difficult days” when you have to meet with young children, spouses, mothers and fathers.

“Death and financial entitlements are not things that anyone ever wants to talk about, but it’s something that at least one person in a Soldier’s life needs to know,” said the Army retiree.

“Even if Soldiers are not married or not planning on getting married, I tell them to make sure their family knows who to call for any type of emergency,” said Kidd. “When grief happens, no one is in the right state of mind, and it’s even harder when you have to search for the correct information.”

Once contact is started with surviving families, they’re offered classes and counseling sessions virtually or by appointment. Classes can include the installation chaplain and involve other ACS agencies depending on individual requests.

Pamela Thomas, an SOS financial counselor, said she gives survivors personal milestones to help them “paint a clear financial picture” of where they want to be in the future.

“I want to capture them early in their process so I can meet with them regarding money management and help them make wise financial decisions,” said Thomas. “Regardless of their monetary choice, or even if they decide to relocate, they’ll always have continuous SOS support through our coordinators and financial counselors.”

“It’s easy for families to initially feel overwhelmed with endless paperwork and classes,” said Ruth Nero, support coordinator, but she reassures them that “it’s OK to take their time to make their own decisions.”

She allows survivors to chart each step in their individual healing process while providing ongoing mentorship and support.

“I’ve been honored to work with families that had small children when they first came to us,” said Nero. “Now many of those children are young adults graduating from high school, getting their first job and going to college.

“We’ve been there from the beginning of their loss and have seen them struggle to find their way, so to see them start a new beginning is a very heartwarming experience.”

The SOS team stays connected with families through personal calls, emails and invitations to attend traditional events and holiday gatherings.

“These gatherings are special times that allow our survivors to form relationships and be around others that are going through the same situation,” said Nero. “At a time when they feel like they’ve lost everything, we’re here to bring the light back in for them.

“Our mission is the family, and we’re all here to do our part.”

To learn more about the Survivor Outreach Services program offered through ACS, visit:

https://bliss.armymwr.com/programs/army-community-service

https://bliss.armymwr.com/programs/survivor-outreach-services-sos