REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Redstone Arsenal’s Survivor Outreach Services joined forces again to host a special event for the community’s Gold Star Families for the first time since 2019.
Nearly 100 volunteers showed up at Redstone Arsenal’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation activity field to set up and serve at the SOS Fall Festival on Oct. 15 for the more than 60 surviving family members who attended.
“Although I am still new in this role and learning every day, it is an honor to support local families and survivors at events like the fall festival,” said Sherry Major, Redstone Arsenal’s SOS program coordinator. “The partnership between SOS and SMDC is a long standing one with traditions of providing events from Easter picnics to a ‘50s bash. It is my goal that we continue in the traditions and the partnership.”
Major, who became the SOS program coordinator in 2021, supports almost 300 surviving family members from 11 counties in the Tennessee Valley.
“Their loved ones all died on active duty serving our county,” Major said. “The folks who attended today are moms, dads, sisters, cousins, and friends. Events like this remind them they matter, and that the U.S. Army is still here for them.”
The fall festival included lunch, pumpkin painting, face painting, cookie decoration, a cake walk, volleyball, cornhole, ladder toss, U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s basketball toss, and Trunk or Treat provided by the Rocket City Mustang Club and the North Alabama Region of the Antique Car Club of America.
“We do a lot of social functions and charity functions in both organizations. It’s good fellowship. It’s good community support,” said Chuck Nickey, a member of the Mustang club and vice president of the antique car club who served in the military for 10 years. “I feel like supporting Soldiers and families is an important thing, and most of the guys that are here are for that reason. A lot of us are prior service.”
Rozeka Gates, USASMDC G-8 administrative assistant, became the command’s SOS program coordinator in April.
“This year’s SMDC’s SOS Fall Festival was my very first time attending an SOS event, and it was my first SOS event as the program coordinator,” Gates said. “I did not know what to expect, since it was the first major SOS event since COVID. The volunteers helped make it an amazing experience for the survivors.”
Gates said it was an honor to be the coordinator and to facilitate an event like this for surviving family members.
“All of the survivors left with goodie bags and smiles on their faces,” Gates said. “This event could not have been as successful as it was without Sherry Major being with me every step of the way. I am ready to begin working on the next SOS project! We will continue to keep the mission going for our survivors. I’m praying each SOS event will show the survivors we appreciate them and will always support them.”
Major said she enjoyed working alongside Gates and all of USASMDC’s volunteers.
“I could not pull off these large-scale events without the manpower and partnership of wonderful USASMDC volunteers,” Major said. “I appreciate all they do to support our families and make them feel special. The SOS position is what it is today because of the support the program received from USASMDC.”
Major said the SOS program’s mission is to provides long-term support to surviving families of fallen Soldiers. The goal is to reassure survivors that they remain valued members of the Army Family.
“We know there are no words or actions that can ever fully solace you in your loss, for there is no greater calling than to serve one’s nation with honor and dignity,” Major said. “We just hope survivors will feel they are supported and hope events like these will remind them. For me, there is no greater duty than to support the families of those who have died in service to our nation.”
Major said the command’s presence reassures survivors they are remembered and that their loved one’s service and sacrifice is not taken for granted. Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, USASMDC commanding general, echoed that message.
“For the families, this is just one more manifestation for how we make sure we always remember your sacrifice,” Karbler said. “You are always going to be part of the Army Family. I want to make sure that we recognize you, we thank you, and we honor your sacrifices.”