Fort Gordon offers programs, services for families of the fallen
In an effort to create awareness about Gold Star pins and the families that wear them, Installation Management Command launched a nationwide campaign in February at the request of Chief of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno.
“The Awareness Campaign began with one of the Gold Star pin public service announcements, which aired for the first time in the hour leading up to this year’s Super Bowl game,” said Karen J. Lewis, Army Community Service Survivor Outreach Services Support Specialist at Fort Gordon.
The public service announcement featured the stories of actual Gold Star Family members with a voiceover by Gary Sinise, who is known for his support of U.S. troops. It is the first of three different public service announcements that will be unveiled throughout this year. This campaign launched after many requests from Gold Star Families, who sometimes have awkward experiences explaining why they wear their pins.
“I think that it is wonderful and necessary that the Army has chosen to run a campaign along with PSA’s to increase awareness of what the Gold Star Pins represent and the sacrifice that has been made by those who wear the pin,” Lewis explained. “The actual wearing of the Gold Star Pins dates back to 1967 and many people do not understand or have never been aware of the pin or Gold Star Families. Along with the Army and all other services, Survivor Outreach Services and the Fort Gordon community are committed to getting the word out and sharing information to enlighten our nation on the Gold Star Pins and our Gold Star Families.”
In a recent news release, Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, the IMCOM commander, stated the Army was committed to its survivors.
“We owe it to them to ensure they get the support and service they deserve for as long as they need it,” said Ferriter. “Educating the public on the meaning behind the gold star pins is simply another way to reaffirm to our survivors that we understand and honor the sacrifices they’ve made for our country.”
The Gold Star Lapel Buttons, now referred to as Pins, established by an Act of Congress (Public Law 80-306) Aug. 1, 1947 was originally presented to families of men killed in World War I. It has since been awarded to family members who lost their love ones in World War II and subsequent conflicts. Gold Star family members are the primary next of kin, which is limited to the widow, widower, each parent, each child, stepchild, child through adoption, brother, half-brother, sister and halfsister., according to Lewis.
There are multiple programs for Gold Star Family members that have been put in place to assist them on their new journey with their loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his or her country. Programs include support groups, registries, blogs, national programs, and service specific programs, according to Lewis.
“In support of our Families of the Fallen Fort Gordon Garrison has established a policy to give survivor referrals top priority by all Garrison agencies providing services,” Lewis explained. “Fort Gordon Survivor Outreach Services facilitates three monthly support groups for survivors. The second Tuesday of each month there is an adult support group which meets separately from the child support group. Both meet from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Family Outreach Center, located behind Woodworth Consolidated Library.
The Survivor Lunch Bunch Adult Support Group is also held on the fourth Tuesday of every month at various locations in Augusta.
“Each year SOS conducts four major events in the Fort Gordon Area of Responsibility,” Lewis said. “We host the Warrior Remembrance in May and the Holiday Remembrances in December. The other two events are the Gold Star Wives Day in April and the Gold Star Family Day in September. The latter two events are held in the Atlanta area to assist supporting our complete AOR.”
The Gold Star Family Day is held each year during the last Saturday in September so that it coincides with the American Gold Star Mothers Day weekend.
In addition, to the support programs offered at Fort Gordon, the installation offers nine designated parking spaces for the Families of the Fallen which were established throughout the post to show respect and to honor Gold Star family members. The parking spaces can be found at the installation commissary, the Exchange, Darling Hall, Freedom Park, the PXTRA, Family Outreach Center and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center.
Family members of the Fallen can obtain a Gold Star Installation Access Card (Department of the Army Form 1602) to assist Gold Star Family members, who are non-identification card holders, easier access to all Army installations, according to Lewis.
“This allows them to receive authorized services, attend events and view memorials,” she explained. “These cards allow access, but do not include unauthorized privileges such as the commissary, Exchange, or medical benefits.”
“There is an application process and a Directorate of Emergency Services background check is required to receive the card, but SOS staff will guide the family member through every step of the process,” Lewis said.
At Fort Gordon Gold Star Family members, who are authorized to obtain the SOS Gold Star Installation Access Card (DA Form 1602) are authorized to obtain an Automated Installation Entry gate security card, according to Lewis.
“This allows our Gold Star Family members to swipe the card at the new white security pedestals at our gates for entry to the post,” she explained. “Gold Star Family members can go to the main gate (Gate 1) Visitor Control Center anytime from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to obtain an AIE card. No appointment is needed if they have a current DA Form 1602.”
In the past, Fort Gordon’s SOS has hosted Survivor Mini Summit, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Seminar and Good Grief Camp weekend, Female Adult Survivor Retreat, Survivor Pool Parties, Survivor Indoor Fun and Games, and the World of Coke Tour in Atlanta, Ga.
In the words of one Gold Star Family member, Rosary Tilby, the wife of the late Sgt. 1st Class James Tilby Jr., the Gold Star Family programs and Survivor Outreach Services offer great support.
“Without the Gold Star Family Programs and Outreach Services I would not feel welcomed to still be a part of the military family,” Rosary Tilby said. “These programs provide me with comfort and surround me with others who have suffered a similar loss. The Gold Star Program says to me that the Armed Services not only recognizes combat related deaths, but respects and recognizes the sacrifice of all of their active duty service members, their sacrifices and the sacrifices of the families. I also appreciate the Gold Star Family member designated parking spots that have been added around Fort Gordon. This is another way the nation and the Army say thank for your sacrifice. It’s is appreciated.”
“For decades service members have given their lives to ensure our country maintained the freedoms we are so proud of and have become accustomed to,” Lewis said. “Behind each service member that gave their life, is a family (his or her support system). They have also made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms.”
“These family members are left behind to grieve the loss of the loved one and begin a new journey in life,” Lewis added. “I believe the military should always remain a part of the journey and acknowledge the loss and sacrifices of our Gold Star Family members. Giving the Gold Star lapel pin or the Next of Kin lapel pin says to our Gold Star Family members that we (the service and our country) are here for you and want others to recognize your sacrifices as well. We want them to know that their service member is never forgotten and that they will never be alone in their new journey.”
For more information about the Gold Star pins or the Fort Gordon Army Community Service Survivor Outreach Services, contact Karen Lewis at 787-1767. To view the Gold Star Families public service announcement run prior to this year’s Super Bowl game, visit: http:// player.theplatform.com/p/ IfSiAC/7Bn5HZqcBwxI/ select/SYOrNrEBL0u6.