By Heather Graham-Ashley, III Corps and Fort Hood Public AffairsDecember 21, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas (Dec. 21, 2011) -- Even after six years, Malia Fry still has bad days.
A Marine widow whose husband, Gunnery Sgt. John D. Fry, was killed March 8, 2005, in Anbar province, Iraq, Malia now works part-time with Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors out of Fort Hood's Survivor Outreach Services office.
As she shared her story during the Survivor Outreach Services, or SOS, holiday reception here Dec. 15, dozens of surviving family members of fallen service members nodded their heads.
Surrounded by food, Christmas decorations and carolers from Army Community Service, the celebration was festive but subdued as family members filled the Hall of Remembrance, surrounded by the portraits of 229 fallen service members that encircled them as constant reminders of sacrifice and selfless service.
The holiday season can be especially difficult for families who have lost a loved one.
"During Christmas, a loved one's loss weighs heavy," Malia said.
For the Fry family, the loss of the gunnery sergeant meant many changes, especially during the holidays.
Every year, Malia would make her husband a cheesecake. It was three years after his death before she could bring herself to make a cheesecake.
Services such as those offered at SOS helped Malia realize she is not alone. Being among kindred spirits has helped her find her way.
"There's no manual telling you how to do this," she said.
Malia said she learned she did not need to try to meet others' expectations.
"Everyone has to find their own way," Malia said."We had to change the traditions, find a new way."
At SOS on Fort Hood, she has not only found support, but a way to keep her and her late husband's children connected to the military, and closer to their father.
"It means the world to me," Malia said.
Even though Fort Hood is primarily an Army installation, Malia said she found a wealth of support at the "Great Place."
"When it comes to taking care of the families of the fallen, Fort Hood doesn't see service," she said.
III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr. told the families that support and commitment to them will not waver.
"We that run the Army are here for you," Campbell said. "Fulfilling the promise the Army and the other services made to you is important to me."
As Campbell told the families he is a "big fan" of SOS and TAPS, he said this center and the programs provided are important.
He said the SOS Center at Fort Hood will remain a place of honor and support for the Families of fallen service members.
"Know that this is a place that honors not only your loved ones' sacrifice, but your sacrifice," Campbell said.
Noting that SOS provides services for 814 households across 175 Texas counties, the general said those figures are not numbers, but family members and survivors.
He offered support and understanding about the mix of emotions and feelings the holidays can bring to survivors.
"This is an emotional time. For you, this is a difficult time," Campbell said. "We understand the sacrifice, not to the level you do, but we understand."
He urged the families to ensure Fort Hood continues to understand and support them.
"The folks here are dedicated to making sure you don't go this road alone," Campbell said. "Know that you are not forgotten."