The WSMR community came together during a Memorial Day event May 22 to celebrate, honor and remember the memory of those who paid the ultimate price in a “Remembering Our Fallen” ceremony at Army Community Service.
Community members joined the Families of the fallen during the daylong event that included releasing balloons, music from the Chapel Men’s Chorus and a Fallen Soldier’s Table ceremony led by 2nd Engineer Battalion Soldiers.
The event is one of many events hosted by the Survivor Outreach Services at Army Community Service at White Sands Missile Range. Candice Gilbert, Survivor Outreach Services Liaison, said the SOS program was created to better serve the Families of the fallen in New Mexico. The program has been in place for six years at all installations but was locally recently transferred from Fort Bliss to WSMR to better serve New Mexico Families.
Gilbert is tasked with making contact with the surviving Family members and supporting them in any way possible through the various programs offered at ACS and the installation. WSMR is currently responsible for supporting 189 surviving Family members.
Attendees at the event were able to stop by the “Wall of Remembrance”, which was unveiled on May 23, 2013, to honor fallen Service Members. ACS Director Patsy Gomez said they encourage Families and survivors to bring a photo of their Service Member and write a letter to them to be placed behind the framed photo on the wall.
Gomez said the event is a reminder to the Families that their loved one will not be forgotten.
The event also inspired Veterans to help others. Gomez said the father of a fallen Soldier who lives in Truth or Consequences wanted to attend the event but did not have a ride. “He said he would walk if he had to,” Gomez said. Fortunately, the father of a Soldier who came home offered to give him a ride. The event allowed this father to grieve for his son – something he hadn’t had a chance to do.
Gilbert said they are committed to reaching out to the Families of Soldiers they have lost even after the 2nd Engineer Battalion leaves WSMR.
Gilbert said Soldiers gave each surviving Family member a tree seedling with a poem for them to plant in the name of their loved one. “That is healing for a lot of people,” Gomez said.
Gomez said it is important for community members to recognize Gold Star Families and to refer them to ACS for whatever services they may need, whether it is emotional or financial. Gilbert said the SOS program is about the Families and reaching out to them. “If I made a difference to one Family that’s what’s important to me,” Gilbert said.
Gomez said it is important to let Family members know they are not forgotten and having access to the installation and services is one way of sending that message. Gold Star Families can get an installation access card and also have special parking spaces available to them throughout the post. “It’s just one way to let them know that we thank them for their service and appreciate what they have been through.”
ACS will hold Survivor Outreach Services events on a quarterly basis throughout the year, to include a clothing drive for Veterans and will host a Memorial Day Ceremony annually. For additional information on the SOS program please contact Candice Gilbert at 678-4163 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.