Story and photo by Geoffrey Roper
The Survivor Outreach Services center, a building dedicated solely to helping survivors of deceased servicemembers, is already working with those survivors, even though the center does not expect to be fully functional until mid-June.
Fort Carson announced plans in February to renovate and convert building 6215, located on Mekong Street, into the SOS center. Though not yet fully staffed, the center is already working to help survivors with any needs they might have, including support group sessions and financial counseling.
“We’re (still) developing the program; we’re working on an events calendar for survivors. We’re trying to find a way to get them in here to take (advantage) of our services,” said Angela Gunn, interim SOS program manager.
“Eventually we’ll be getting an outreach coordinator, we’ll be getting a receptionist and a support coordinator, and then we’ll be looking to have more support groups for survivors,” she said.
The SOS program is in place on Fort Carson as a way for the Army to remain connected to survivors, and make sure they always have a place they can go to for support.
Its intent is to preserve a connection between survivors and the Army Family.
As stated in the SOS handout, the goal is to create a caring, committed and compassionate survivor-oriented team that is wholly dedicated to survivors. Also, they want to provide consistent and valuable services, supply timely and useful information to assist in reducing stress, and ensure survivors know all their entitlements.
“(The Army) wanted someone in place, or somewhere (survivors) could go on post that was specifically for Families of the fallen, where they can still maintain that connection to the Army. So the SOS was put in place to be the long-term portion of that,” said Eric Jackson, SOS financial counselor.
Jackson also said an important goal is to reach out to past survivors that were around before the SOS was in place, since he said many of them end up disconnected from the Army and have no idea programs are out there to help them. Jackson said another goal is to create programs for survivors that currently do not exist, such as programs that target the children of survivors, connections to other existing support groups and developing better community outreach services.
The SOS staff said it recognizes that coping with the loss of a loved one can be an extremely difficult life experience, and when the loss of a Soldier connects to that, the experience can be highly magnified. Many times survivors are under such great stress they do not always know services are in place throughout the Army and the community, to help them cope in myriad ways, staff members said.
“The one thing survivors want, almost universally, is their Soldier back, and that’s the one thing that we can’t give them,” said Jackson. “But we want to give them anything (else) we possibly can, do anything we possibly can for them, to make their lives better in any way we can.” That, Jackson said, is the SOS’s primary goal.
When completed, the new SOS center should have a fully functioning kitchen, a meeting room, playroom and meditation room, a fenced-in playground and a serenity garden. All these amenities are meant to help survivors reduce stress and have a place to call their own.
This program will demonstrate the Army’s, as well as Fort Carson’s, complete commitment to Families of the fallen. The SOS is in place to be an enhanced, holistic and multi-agency approach to delivering services to survivors in Colorado, Utah, North and South Dakota and Wyoming.
Gunn said anyone who wants help or more information is welcome to come by the SOS center, but the SOS will be temporarily located at the Army Community Service Center in building 1526 as renovations continue. The plan is to have an open house at the finished SOS center June 15. For additional information, survivors are encouraged to call the ACS main number at 526-4590.