Story and photo by Pfc. Andrew Ingram
1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
Casualty care teams made up of military spouses volunteer their time and a comforting shoulder to Families grieving the loss of a fallen Soldier.
Volunteers, married to Soldiers from across 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, gathered at “Raider” Brigade Headquarters to learn how to assist a grieving Family during casualty care team training, Sept. 25.
“We want to help care teams understand the roles and responsibilities in the casualty notification process and see where they fit into the course of assisting the Families of fallen Soldiers,” said Jean Graves, Fort Carson casualty assistance team trainer.
Graves said care team members provide short term support to grieving Families until extended Family and close friends can arrive to console their loved ones.
“The military moves Soldiers around a lot, so most of these (spouses) don’t live near their extended Family,” she said. “When the worst happens, casualty care teams take on a lot of the responsibilities (the Family) may not be up to, like making phone calls, providing meals and babysitting.”
In the days and weeks after a Soldier’s death, care teams work hand-in-hand with casualty assistance officers to help their Family through the painful process of putting his affairs in order.
Casualty assistance officers provide technical support by assisting Families in completing extensive paperwork to help them collect their Soldiers’ life insurance and set up funeral arrangements. Casualty assistance teams, however, provide moral support by helping with child care, screening visits and simply sitting in silence with grieving spouses or children, said Sgt. 1st Class Leon Luna, Fort Carson casualty assistance officer.
“I’ve had a great experience with all of the casualty assistance teams I’ve worked with,” Luna said. “They bring an important level of humanity to a very difficult process.”
During the training, new team members discussed procedures for reaching out to the Family of a fallen Soldier, reacted to hypothetical crisis scenarios and asked questions about what to expect while assisting a grieving Family.
Military spouses have a responsibility to take care of each other while their Soldiers serve overseas, said Rachel Christianson, wife of Capt. Mark Christianson, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st BCT.
“If my husband is severely injured or killed during a deployment I would want the community here to reach out and help me,” Rachel Christianson said. “We need each other while our husbands are away and especially if they don’t come home. That is why I volunteered for the care team.”
Being involved with the care teams also helps spouses feel more connected to their Soldier during an extended deployment, said Sharah Kling, wife of Staff Sgt. Seth Kling, Company C, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT.
“By working with the care team I felt like I was doing something important to support my husband,” said Kling, who volunteered as a care team member during the Raider Brigade’s deployment to Afghanistan from 2010-2011. “I feel these teams are important because no one should have to go through the loss of a loved one alone.”