By Carrie E. David, SMDC/ARSTRATFebruary 9, 2013
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Feb. 9, 2013) -- Mentors are important no matter the age of those they mentor. For the children of fallen service members, mentors provide a vital role, which employees of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, got the chance to fill while having fun Mardi Gras style at The Overlook on Redstone Arsenal, Feb. 9.
The event, sponsored by U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, or USASMDC/ARSTRAT, and Survivor Outreach Services, is for the families of fallen Soldiers, and one of the focuses of these events is the mentoring for children.
"We sought among our volunteers not just people who would do activities but volunteers who would choose to be adult mentors and find a surviving spouse, or mom or dad, or brother or sister, and communicate in a very caring and genuine way with them," said Lt. Gen. Richard P. Formica, SMDC's commanding general. "Then we have adult mentors who would reach out to a surviving child who might be missing a father figure, and for one day establish a special relationship with an adult who can reach out to them and make them feel important in an environment that is focused on them and their needs."
Rick Judy, a retired sergeant major who now works at SMDC as a Department of the Army civilian, has been 5-year-old KayCee Chaney's mentor for the past three SOS events.
"I love to do this, and it's a good way to give back," Judy said. "These families have made the ultimate sacrifice. This is little bitty stuff compared to what they're going through. I've had KayCee three times. I hope I make a good impression on him and he'll take something away from this."
According to KayCee's mom, Krystal Chaney, who lost her husband in 2008, these SOS/SMDC events are beneficial to KayCee.
"I think these events help KayCee to realize that the Army doesn't forget," Chaney said. "I think it helps to put a face on the Army, and Rick has been a positive male role model for my son. These have been amazing."
Being a positive role model is exactly why Judy likes to pair up with KayCee.
"I feel sad for him because he doesn't have a father figure in his life right now," Judy said. "If I can kind of fill that role a little bit, kind of give him the man thing, I love it. In fact, if we could do this more often it would be better. KayCee's fun, enjoyable and full of energy."
KayCee when asked if he looked for Judy when he arrived at an SOS event said emphatically, "Yeeeaaaah!!!"
Chaney said these events really mean a lot to her and other surviving families.
"Part of what you lose when you lose your Soldier is the sense of community," Chaney said. "This helps that and helps transition us back to civilian life. SOS keeps growing and evolving, and it's been fantastic."
According to Judy, survivors are still part of the Army family.
"If you show that all these people still mean something, that they're still important to us, then you can't ask for more than that," Judy said. "I believe in the Army family. These are amazing events with amazing people and you have volunteers who give freely. They would come do this every day if you asked them."
Kerrie Branson, SOS coordinator, said these events remind her that survivors are cared about and their fallen Soldiers are not forgotten.
"Mentors taking time out on their Saturdays and paying special attention to the children who have lost someone significant in their life is very touching," Branson said. "Adult survivors, like Karen Kennedy, have told me that watching the children interact with mentors encourages them, and they see there is life after loss. Although difficult, survivors are given hope and strive to pull each other along the path."
Formica always tells the surviving families that he, SMDC, and the Army will remember them and their loved ones.
"These are great events and they are wonderful opportunities for us to remind the surviving families that they will never be forgotten," Formica said. "I've been overwhelmed by the response from within the command and among the community. There are so many people who are willing to volunteer as adult mentors, mentors for the kids, or to do the many activities, and I'm very appreciative of that."