HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Redstone Arsenal’s Survivor Outreach Services gathered at Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Nov. 20, to honor the Army’s surviving family members and introduce the SOS program’s new coordinator.
Kerrie Branson, the program’s former coordinator, retired from civilian service in April, and the program welcomed Sherry Major as the new coordinator in July.
“With Kerrie Branson’s retirement and COVID-19 restrictions, events and gatherings for the program had been put on pause,” Major said. “This was our first event in almost two years. It was such a magical time to see everyone. I had the opportunity to meet many survivors and their family members for the first time.”
Major served four years as a hospice chaplain, so she understands the grief process.
“There is not one way to heal after the loss of a loved one,” Major said. “I do believe there is power in connection and healing. When I see our survivors coming together, sharing a meal, connecting with one another, that’s what it’s about! Sharing hope and supporting one another.”
Phillis Reid, a paralegal for USASMDC and the command’s SOS coordinator, said she was thankful for Major and her support making sure the event was successful.
“We never stopped thinking about the families during the pandemic, and now that restrictions are relaxing, we knew we needed to have an event, especially around the holidays, to bring them together,” Reid said. “It was wonderful to be able to bring the families together after such a long time.”
Reid said there were 24 USASMDC volunteers who decorated and served the family members during the event.
“As usual, our SMDC volunteers stepped up to make sure we had a beautiful event and everything ran smoothly,” Reid said. “We want to ensure surviving family members know we remember their sacrifice and their loved ones.”
Reid said she was also grateful for the North Alabama Chapter of American Gold Star Mothers that co-hosted the dinner for the nearly 100 Gold Star family members who attended. During the event, the organization honored Reid and Branson for their service to SOS and Gold Star Families over the years.
“Kerrie single handedly built the SOS program by reaching out, finding Gold Star Families and bringing us all together,” said Annette Hall, president of the North Alabama Chapter of American Gold Star Mothers.
“Our chapter would also like to recognize Phillis Reid, who is retiring in March 2022. She took the lead and organized, planned and implemented, along with all of the SMDC employee volunteers, several Gold Star Family events each year since 2012. Ladies, we cannot express what each of you means to our Gold Star Families. You both will be missed, yet always remembered.”
Major said that now that restrictions are loosening, she plans to host more events.
“It is my goal for the program to continue events like this but to also add additional programs and experiences,” Major said. “Our kids are growing up and needs are changing, but the mission is the same: to offer support and information, when they need it and for as long as they need it.
“As the new SOS coordinator, I consider it a true honor to serve and represent these incredible survivors,” Major said. “There is no greater duty than to support the families of those who have died in service to our nation.”
Flickr photo set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/armysmdc/albums/72157720168908186