By Luke ElliottMarch 28, 2013
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas--The U.S. Army Installation Management Command recently implemented a program to ensure Family members of Fallen Soldiers have easier access to Army installations.
On March 14, Army installations began issuing a standardized Gold Star Installation Access Card to parents and siblings of deceased active duty Soldiers to allow unescorted access to the installation, so they are able to receive services and support.
"Surviving parents, siblings and others who do not already have a Military or Family member ID have told us that one of their biggest frustrations is getting onto an installation to attend Survivor Outreach Services support groups, attend events, visit memorials and visit with other Survivors," said Hal Snyder, chief, Wounded and Fallen Support Services, G-9 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Programs, Headquarters, IMCOM.
This issue was raised to the Department of the Army level through the Army Family Action Plan program, which provides a grassroots forum for members of the Army community to raise quality of life concerns. The Gold Star Installation Access Card was created in response to this feedback after reaching the highest levels of Army leadership.
"Senior Army leadership was listening, and we are pleased to be able to continue to honor the promise that Survivors remain part of the Army Family for as long as they desire," said Snyder.
In addition to providing access to all Army installations, the new identification card also serves as a small way of paying tribute these Family members.
"This card allows Survivors to have a transportable method to not only gain installation access, but it provides acknowledgement that they are Army Survivors, which is very important because of the sacrifices they have made," said Christine Carruthers, Survivor Outreach Services region specialist, G-9 FMWR Programs, Headquarters, IMCOM.
Carruthers said that it is also important for Survivors to have easy access to an installation because many of them are not familiar with how the Army works.
"In many cases, those individuals have no knowledge of the Army lifestyle and culture, so having ease of access is very helpful to them and it means a lot to them to be able to receive the services and support from the Army," Carruthers said.
Many installations were already assisting and recognizing Gold Star Family members with post decals and some were even providing identification cards, but the new installation access card program standardizes these efforts across all Army installations.
The HQ IMCOM Survivor Outreach Services was one of the lead proponents assigned to make the Gold Star Installation Access Card a reality. Army Survivor Outreach Services was established in 2008 as the long-term solution in the causality assistance continuum of care. The program provides services that address the financial, emotional, educational, health and family issues that may arise following the death of a Soldier while continuously linking Survivors to their Army Family for as long as they desire.
"The grief journey is unique to every Survivor and is experienced in its own way and time," said Carruthers. "Our program is there to assist them through their individual journey and make sure they receive all the services, support and benefits they are entitled. For Survivors who are not familiar with the Army system, having somebody already connected and knowledgeable about the agencies and resources available to them helps Survivors navigate through that much easier."
In addition to the installation access card, the Army also implemented a program March 22, which provides reserved parking spaces to Gold Star Family members at various locations on Army installations.