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1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command volunteers serve lunch to family members of fallen service members during a USASMDC and Survivor Outreach Services Happy Who-liday Party at Java Café on Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, Dec. 2, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Carrie David Campbell) (Photo Credit: Carrie Campbell) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Santa Claus, aka retired Sgt. 1st Class Charles Peters, reads “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the children attending the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Survivor Outreach Services’ Happy Who-liday Party for the family members of fallen service members at the Java Café on Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, Dec. 2, 2023. (U.S. Army photos by Carrie David Campbell) (Photo Credit: Carrie Campbell) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – Even rainy weather did not stop fallen service members’ surviving family members from attending the Happy Who-liday Party, Dec. 2, at Java Café on Redstone Arsenal.

The party, hosted by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Survivor Outreach Services, provided food, fellowship, fun and holiday spirit for the nearly 50 attendees, most decked out in holiday pajamas or attire.

“I was concerned that the rainy weather would discourage them from attending,” said Michelle Smith, USASMDC’s SOS coordinator and a program analyst with the Technical Center’s Business Management Directorate’s Financial Management Division. “I was very excited to see the number of SOS families who decided to attend the event.”

Nearly 40 volunteers provided food and worked during the event. Activities included crafts and games; Who-liday bingo; a cake walk; Grinchmas left-right story (passing presents left or right in a circle following key words in the story); lunch; and visits by both Santa and the Grinch.

“A few people came up to me during the event to let me know how much fun they were having and commented on the great job everyone did,” Smith said. “My goal was to make sure this event was memorable, the families interacted with each other, and most of all, everyone had fun. I wanted them to participate with all the fun games I had planned and be glad they chose to come to the Happy Who-liday Party versus staying home.”

Sherry Major, Redstone Arsenal’s SOS program coordinator, said every member of the USASMDC team pours their heart and soul into making SOS events special.

“It’s always great to partner with SMDC to provide annual events for our RSA survivors,” Major said. “Collaborating with an organization that has heart and compassion for what survivors go through, especially during the holidays, means so much to me and to them. From those who are working the games, making balloon animals, prepping and serving food, and cleaning up, all give 100%.”

Smith said the event took a lot of planning to pull together, and USASMDC has some talented people who do not hesitate to pitch in where they are needed.

“My SMDC teammates stepped up in a big way to help execute the party to ensure it was a success, just like I knew they would and just like they always have done,” Smith said.

Major said that some of the employees have been volunteering for years and know many survivors on a first-name basis.

“The relationships and bonds that are formed reinforce the promise that survivors will remain a valued member of the Army Family and more importantly, the Redstone Arsenal community,” Major said. “Now that COVID restrictions have lifted, it’s great to see survivors participating in events again and enjoying time together.”

This was the first SOS event hosted at Redstone Arsenal’s Java Café, and although Major said the venue was perfect and homey, there was a greater benefit of the location for family members.

“Having events on Redstone Arsenal encourages survivors to obtain their Survivors Access Badge, which allows them access to all instillations,” Major said. “The badge not only gives them freedom to get onto the installation to participate in activities, but it’s another symbol of connection, reminding them they will always be connected to the military and honored for their sacrifice.”

Smith said she has already planned to meet with Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, USASMDC’s commanding general, to see what his vision is for the next USASMDC-sponsored SOS event and when he wants it to happen.

“I look forward to planning the next event, and I'm already thinking about how I can make it even better than this one,” Smith said.

***Note: Survivor Outreach Services provides long-term support to surviving families of fallen Soldiers. To connect or for more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/SOSRedstone/ or call (256) 876-9579.

Flickr photo set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/armysmdc/albums/72177720313106643/