By Senior Airman Jordyn Fetter
11th Wing Public Affairs
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. — For the first time, Gold Star Base Access ID cards were issued to three family members of fallen Airmen at Joint Base Andrews, Md., May 1, 2017.
These cards are part of an Air Force initiative allowing Gold Star families unescorted access to Air Force installations to visit buried loved ones, attend base events and stop by Airmen and Family Readiness Centers for immediate and long-term emotional support.
“The chief of staff of the Air Force’s interest in making sure our Gold Star families remain part of the Air Force community sparked the interest in this initiative,” said Carla Diamond, a U.S. Air Force Headquarters community readiness consultant. “Reaching out to surviving family members through different avenues led us to this opportunity. This is a great way for us to make contact and remain connected with them.”
The Gold Star ID program is scheduled for Air Force-wide implementation beginning May 15, 2017, for parents, siblings and adult children of Airmen who were killed in action during international terrorist attacks against the U.S. or a foreign nation friendly to the U.S., or military operations while serving outside the U.S. as part of a peacekeeping force.
“Even though it’s been 11 years [since my son passed], some days it still feels very fresh,” said Jackie Chavis, a Gold Star mother. “The ability to come on base makes me still feel connected to him. This bridges the gap between families and the Air Force so you can be around people who understand what you’re going through or what you’ve gone through.”
To welcome more Gold Star families to base through this program, each member is set to receive a letter signed by the Air Force installation commander closest to where they reside. If members are interested in obtaining the ID card before receiving notification, they can reach out to their local Air Force Families Forever program contact.
Although this access will not authorize holders to use recreational facilities, commissaries or base exchanges, it does permit them to receive care through the Air Force Families Forever program. This platform provides military survivor seminars, grief camps for young survivors, peer mentors and casualty care assistance to anyone grieving the death of a loved one who served in the military.
Prior to the implementation of this program, family members had to be escorted on base by an ID card holder, which was not always an option available to them.
“Family members are critical in making sure our Airmen are resilient,” said Brig. Gen. Kathleen Cook, the Air Force Services director. “This program reminds family members that they are still part of the greater Air Force family and is just one more way of showing them we value what they bring.”
To reach out to the Air Force Families Forever program, call 210-565-1366.