PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (July 8, 2021) - For Gwyn De Amaral, a Gold Star survivor who lost his father, having a Survivor Access Badge that allows him to visit the Presidio of Monterey without an escort is important because it means the door is always open.
“It’s allowing me to stay connected to a part of my past and to so much of what made me who I am,” said De Amaral, who visits often to see the memorial dedicated to his father and the graves of his great grandparents. His father, Maj. Charles F. De Amaral Jr., was a helicopter pilot who died in Vietnam in 1965. His great grandfather, 2nd Lt. William A. Davenport, was a cavalryman who served at PoM.
De Amaral is the first PoM survivor to receive a new-and-improved survivor badge that is good for three years and looks more like a Common Access Card than previous versions of the badge. Although this is De Amaral’s third, the new badge he picked up June 29 will make life easier for him because he will not have to renew it as often. It also helps keep him connected.
“It’s about access to the post and not having a barrier and instead feeling like you’re a part of it still,” De Amaral said. “You’re not cut off from it. You have access; it’s in your pocket, and all I have to do is show it.”
Nathaniel Pleasantbey, Survivor Outreach Services coordinator for POM, met De Amaral at the POM Visitors Center when he picked up his new badge, and said he encourages other Gold Star survivors to apply.
“They just flash their ID card, it gets scanned, and they’re on their way,” Pleasantbey said.
Gold Star survivors are the parents, spouses, children and siblings of fallen active-duty service members, and while some survivors, such as spouses and children, might already have a dependent identification card, others, such as parents, siblings and older children such as De Amaral, often do not, Pleasantbey said.
Those who already have identification that allows them access are not eligible for the survivor badges, Pleasantbey said.
Since survivors often need to visit installations to use Army Community Service and SOS programs and attend functions, for example, having an access badge makes sense, Pleasantbey said.
The Army originally started issuing access badges for survivors in 2013, but the badges have changed considerably in appearance since, and the previous badges were only good for one year.
To apply for a badge, survivors should contact Pleasantbey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The process includes filling out an application and having a picture taken. Security officials review the backgrounds of all applicants.
It is also important to note that badge holders cannot access any other privileges, such as commissary, exchange or military space-available air travel, and they cannot sign others on post, Pleasantbey said.
The badges, however, are good at all other Army installations, as well as the Department of Defense sister services.
“It gets you on to the installation, presumably so you can come to military functions,” Pleasantbey said. “If we have a Memorial Day function, Fourth of July function, something to honor the fallen, you can come on post to help celebrate … or if you have a function where a particular hero is being celebrated.”
The fact that PoM can issue the badges is significant because only active-duty Army installations can issue them. In California, that leaves only PoM and Fort Irwin, nearly 400 miles south of PoM.
PoM’s SOS office covers the California counties of Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. But if a survivor outside of that area needs an access badge, Pleasantbey can coordinate with National Guard SOS officials, for example, to help secure one.
De Amaral, who lives near PoM in the Carmel Highlands, said he is grateful for the new badge and Pleasantbey’s help with access to the post.
“Visiting the post has given him the opportunity to stay connected with a vital group of people who were a part of his loved ones’ lives,” De Amaral said.
“It can help you,” De Amaral said of survivors maintaining access to military installations. “It’s helped me through my grieving, even now in my life ... I think it’s a really wonderful resource for people.”