By Reginald Rogers/ParaglideAugust 6, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The Army has always had a legacy of taking care of its Families. Even when a Soldier dies in the line of duty, the support does not stop and Fort Bragg officials want to ensure that surviving spouses and Family members know that.
On July 28, the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg Commanding General Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick hosted a symposium at the Watters Center for Family Life and Religious Education for surviving spouses that included representatives from the post's various agencies designed to support them.
Featured at the event, along with Helmick, were Joyce Land, director of the Casualty and Mortuary Affairs office; Elissa Davis, who oversees the benefits at that office; Mary Posey, Tricare Health Benefits advisor; Lisa Munn of Picerne Military Housing; Charlotte Watson, Survivor Outreach Services; Maj. Fred Delacruz, rear detachment commander for the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team and Post Chaplain, Chaplain (Col.) Larry A. McCarty.
Helmick spoke highly of the team, which works together to ensure that the needs of surviving Family members are taken care of during, and well after their time of bereavement.
"There's no other organization, that I've seen in my 34 years in the military, that takes care of the Families and Soldiers in a tragic situation like we have when someone is killed, than the people we have sitting at this table," he said. "We start before the fact, where we actually train Soldiers to be prepared in the event that they have to go and notify someone that their spouse has been killed."
Helmick said Fort Bragg, the largest military installation in the U.S., based on population, has 51,000 Soldiers. Since 2001, the post has deployed more than 100,000 Soldiers, Helmick said.
"We have a lot of guys and women who have gone and done what our nation has asked them to do," he explained. "But we've also had 371 killed in action and for those people's Families, their lives changed forever and it's tragic."
He said the Army has taken great measures to ensure that Families of deceased Soldiers are taken care of. He also pointed out that the survivor outreach element at Fort Bragg is responsible for training military casualty assistance teams throughout the state of North Carolina.
Land said her office is responsible of carrying out one of the hardest jobs in the Army and it does it with the utmost professionalism.
"Our main goal is to train your (casualty assistance) officers and assistant officers to help our escorts so that those Soldiers will know what to do when transporting remains," she said. " ... When the unthinkable occurs, our main concern is the Family. We all network together to take care of that Family."
Land said her office briefs and makes sure that the Family members understand all of their entitlements, including financial assistance, if necessary, and instructs them on dealing with various other issues that may arise.
One of Delacruz' duties as rear detachment commander is to oversee the casualty operations for the 82nd Airborne Division. He said it is a duty that he and his unit handle from beginning to end, meaning once they are notified of a Soldier's death, all elements of the casualty assistance and mortuary affairs team are notified and called into action.
As the Fort Bragg chaplain, McCarty said he provides ministry, leads the interment and sometimes conducts the funeral, if asked by the Family.
Helmick explained that a general officer would attend all funerals of Soldiers who died in combat, as mandated by the Army Chief of Staff. He added that the general officer attends on behalf of the chief of staff.
"The chief of Staff has said there will be a representative at that funeral and that representative will be a general officer," Helmick explained. "My commitment to the guys in the 82nd Airborne Division and the guys who are stationed here at Fort Bragg, or anybody that's deployed, is if there's a Soldier on Fort Bragg who is killed, I will do my best and each general in the corps will do their best to be at that Soldier's funeral."
Helmick pointed out that Fort Bragg has had 13 Soldiers killed in the past two weeks. He added that the corps cancelled the welcome ceremonies of a few generals last week so that members of the XVIII Airborne Corps staff could attend those funerals.
McCarty explained that within 72 hours of a Soldier's death during a deployment, the unit with which they served conducts a memorial service to honor them at their deployed location.
The purpose of the symposium was to ensure that surviving Family members know they will continue to receive support from the Army Family long after their Soldier is buried.
About 45 Family members and media representatives attended the event.