By Evan Dyson, IMCOMOctober 25, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 25, 2011 -- Survivors outlined their top recommendations to Army leadership this month at the conclusion of the Survivor Outreach Services Army Family Action Plan Summit.
Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commanding general of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, participated in the Oct. 13 event, along with his wife, Sarah. Also in attendance and delivering remarks was Linda Odierno, wife of Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond Odierno.
"We've invested time, energy and resources into the program," Lynch said about Survivor Outreach Services. "You've got to tell us how we're doing and that's the purpose of the AFAP Summit."
The top five recommendations made to leadership were:
-- Establish face-to-face training for Soldiers about the importance of a last will and testament
-- Refine the Casualty Assistance Officer selection method to include the Casualty Assistance Centers in the screening process
-- Remove time restrictions for survivors to contribute to tax-free growth accounts
-- Create a dedicated survivor resource website
-- Mandate the stabilization of active-duty survivors for a minimum of one year
According to Lynch, some topics identified as issues, including Web resources, may be handled rather quickly by enhancing existing sites and making sure people are aware of them.
"I'm absolutely convinced that the key to all of this is information," Lynch said. "You can have the best programs in the world, but if nobody knows about the programs, you might as well not even have the programs."
Other recommendations will continue to be evaluated, he said.
According to organizers, the event served as a mid-level AFAP summit. Issues presented at the conference, which cannot be resolved at a local level, will be forwarded to the AFAP summit in January held by the Department of the Army.
Speaking of the nation's fiscal situation, Lynch acknowledged that not every issue will be attainable, but it is important to identify the ones that will better serve the Army community.
Other topics discussed during the summit, but not included in the top five issues, ranged from replacing vehicle stickers for Gold Star Families with portable identification cards to the addition of training to ensure awareness of the meaning behind the Gold Star lapel button and service banners.
Lynch, who is nearing the end of his term as commanding general of IMCOM and assistant chief of staff of Installation Management, expressed his respect and gratitude to Linda Odierno for her attendance and for looking out for Soldiers and their families.
"Sarah and I transition out of the Army in less than 30 days to another form of service," he said, "But we leave the Army knowing that the Army is in good hands because there are no two human beings who care for people, who love people, more than Linda and Ray Odierno."
In her remarks, Linda Odierno thanked all Survivors who participated in the summit for their insight and recommendations, saying their feedback was critical to better serving the Army and all survivors of the fallen.
"I want you to know we will never forget about your loss and we will never forget about you and your family," said Odierno. "Being here shows how much you continue to care about the Army and its spouses and families who will also experience the loss of a loved one."
The summit, conducted by Survivor Outreach Services, drew from the experience of 50 Survivors.
According to Hal Snyder, program manager for SOS, the intent for these types of events is to listen and respond to what actually resonates with the Survivor community.
For the participants, the event was also valuable.
"I have an idea what all these families are going through," said Roger Verela. On May 17, 2007, Verela's son, Pvt. 1st Class Alejandro Verela, was killed near Baghdad.
"I don't know exactly how they're grieving because we all grieve differently, but we're not just friends or acquaintances," he said. "We're family. We are family."
"I'm just pleased and honored to be here," said participant Alma Hart during her briefing to Lynch. "I don't like fluff and this meeting has been good hard work and I am proud to have been a part of it."
Following the conclusion of the summit, participants laid a wreath in Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknowns.