2018-01-12 / News Update

Loved ones honored with wreath ceremony

Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


A Dec. 19 Survivor Outreach Services event brings staff members and members of military families together to make Christmas ornaments in memory of loved ones, following an annual, outdoor ceremony. 
Photos by Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon A Dec. 19 Survivor Outreach Services event brings staff members and members of military families together to make Christmas ornaments in memory of loved ones, following an annual, outdoor ceremony. Photos by Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Many people view the holiday season as a joyous time for gathering with family and friends, but for those who lost a loved one, it can be an especially difficult time of year.

Fort Gordon Survivor Outreach Services hosted its annual Holiday Remembrance Ceremony Dec. 19, 2017 at Freedom Park. The ceremony is one way SOS and the Fort Gordon community strive to ensure that families of fallen Servicemembers know they are not forgotten.

Following an opening prayer, Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr. addressed a gathering of survivors surrounded by other members of the military community.

Morrison expressed empathy toward survivors.

“I know during this very, very special time of year not having your own loved one with you brings with it its own challenges,” Morrison said. “And your loved ones, while they may not be here, they are definitely in our hearts, and you honor us with your presence.”


Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon commanding general, speaks to family members at a remembrance ceremony at Freedom Park on Dec. 19. He expressed the Army’s commitment to the family members and paid tribute to their Servicemembers. Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon commanding general, speaks to family members at a remembrance ceremony at Freedom Park on Dec. 19. He expressed the Army’s commitment to the family members and paid tribute to their Servicemembers. Morrison also emphasized that although the survivors’ loved ones are not physically present, they remain a part of the military family.

“You are a part of our family because our military takes care of its own,” Morrison said. “Please know that you always have a home with us.”

Servicemembers from each branch of service placed a holiday remembrance wreath in front of the SOS Tree of Remembrance while Melissa McKenzie, SOS support coordinator, read a poem explaining the wreath’s meaning.

Various branches of the military are represented Dec. 19 at Freedom Park during a Survivor Outreach Services event which offered military families a time to gather in memory of their Servicemember.Various branches of the military are represented Dec. 19 at Freedom Park during a Survivor Outreach Services event which offered military families a time to gather in memory of their Servicemember.“Let this wreath be a loving reminder that someone is missing today; someone our hearts still hold onto as we travel along life’s way … As we pause to remember, let us all fondly recall how dearly each of us loved them and how they loved us all,” McKenzie read.

Jolane Williams, SOS financial counselor, read a poem titled “Four Candles” as Servicemembers lit four remembrance candles. Jolane said the candles represented grief, courage, memory and love. Each survivor was presented with a candle to light in remembrance of their loved ones.

Once lit, Williams invited other community members to light a candle in memory of loved ones.


Lincolnton, Ga., resident Theresa Thigpen, left, and Augusta, Ga., resident Jennie Hope are on hand in Freedom Park Dec. 19, 2017, for the annual remembrance event run by Survivor Outreach Services in connection with the Christmas season. Lincolnton, Ga., resident Theresa Thigpen, left, and Augusta, Ga., resident Jennie Hope are on hand in Freedom Park Dec. 19, 2017, for the annual remembrance event run by Survivor Outreach Services in connection with the Christmas season. The ceremony ended with a benediction. Survivors were invited to the Command Support Center for fellowship, refreshments, and ornament making. It is an event Theresa Thigpen refuses to miss if she can help it.

Thigpen’s husband, Master Sgt. Thomas Thigpen, died March 16, 2004, while serving in Iraq.

“It’s a way of continuing to remember him and getting together with other families that have suffered the same losses as I have,” Theresa said.

Theresa’s husband was getting ready to retire from the Army National Guard when the unit was activated. He had a choice to stay behind, but instead filed for an extension so that he could fight alongside troops. Although her loss has been difficult, according to Theresa, she is thankful for the support she has gotten from the military throughout the years.

Augusta, Ga., resident Jennie Hope displays a Christmas ornament she made Dec. 19, 2017, in memory of her husband, Amy Veteran Rodney G. Hope.Augusta, Ga., resident Jennie Hope displays a Christmas ornament she made Dec. 19, 2017, in memory of her husband, Amy Veteran Rodney G. Hope.“The military really does take care of their own,” she said. “I can call them for anything, and they’re there to help. If they don’t know the answer, they get someone who does.”

Theresa’s experiences are reflective of the SOS mission year-round, but especially during the holiday season.

“We know that this can be a very difficult time of year for our survivors and no one can take away their pain and their grief,” Williams said. “But what we want them to know is we care and that we are here for them.”

SOS is now located at the CSC on 3rd Avenue and Heritage Park Lane. Anyone in need of SOS assistance should stop by or call (706) 791- 8685/7014.



Blythe, Ga., resident Jeremyiah Screen, 3, makes a Christmas ornament in memory of his uncle, Marcus Screen, who served in the Army. Blythe, Ga., resident Jeremyiah Screen, 3, makes a Christmas ornament in memory of his uncle, Marcus Screen, who served in the Army.

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