By Carrie E. David (SMDC/ARSTRAT)October 13, 2012
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command employees honored the families of America's fallen Soldiers once again when they hosted their fifth Survivor Outreach Services event Oct. 13.
SOS Fall Fest took place at the home of Lt. Gen. Richard P. Formica, SMDC's commanding general.
"We want to show we care. We want survivors in the north Alabama community to know that we haven't forgotten their sacrifice and loss," Formica said. "We host an event once a quarter to give the spouses, children and parents of fallen Soldiers a chance to come together and support each other. They get an opportunity to share their story, and we get an opportunity to hear it. We want to recognize their loss and let them know that we haven't forgotten."
The event featured face painting, balloons, rope toss, volleyball, moon bounce, a visit by the garrison fire department and Sparky the dog, and lots of food, much of it donated by the supporters and volunteers.
"We are very supported by Redstone Arsenal leadership, SMDC staff, and the many volunteers," said Kerrie Branson, SOS coordinator. "We had more than 40 survivors who really enjoyed the fellowship of other families and who appreciate the embrace of the military family."
According to survivor Perry Ramsey, a veteran of the Vietnam War, the fellowship is a big draw.
"I enjoy the fellowship and come to see if my grandkids will show up," said Ramsey, whose son was killed in Afghanistan in August 2011. "I get to meet a whole lot of very nice people. It's good to meet other families who've lost a loved one. We have something in common."
Krystal Chaney and her son, KayCee, have both been frequent participants in SOS events.
"I would like for my little boy to connect with other survivors… to focus on the positive things in life rather than on the challenges," said Chaney, whose husband died in 2008. "It's good for him to see all of these people donating their time and resources to honor fallen Soldiers, and connecting with other families is important. It is encouraging seeing families eight or nine years down the road after their loss."
According to Branson, a new activity for the fall fest was "art therapy."
"The survivors were able to paint plates to express their feelings in a number of ways: their recovery process, a reflection of their relationship with their fallen Soldier, or just a dedication to their fallen Soldier," Branson said. "The plates will be used to create a wall of hope in the new SOS facility next year."
According to one survivor, events like this really do help.
"It helps being able to communicate with other parents who have experienced their child being killed," said Faye Ausborn, whose son was killed in Afghanistan in April 2011. "They are the only ones who understand what you are feeling and what you are going through. I've been to counselors and nothing has helped. This does."
Branson was very pleased at the success of the SOS Fall Fest.
"We had a great turnout of survivors and supporters today," Branson said. "I want to thank Lt. Gen. Formica and (his wife) Diane for their incredible support and for opening their home to us and hosting this event."
According to Chaney, these events are life altering.
"Being able to connect with such wonderful people like Kerrie and the supporters is amazing. Everyone displays so much patriotism," Chaney said. "These events have changed our identity from one of sadness to a feeling of honor."