Gold Star spouses recognized and honored
By Sgt. Kelsey L. Miller, 1st BCT, 1st AD Public Affairs:
(El Paso, Texas, April 20, 2017) A group of women convened on the Old Fort Bliss Replica lawn, the sound of laughter echoed off the rustic buildings. Long tables stretched across the lawn, set up with canvases and paintbrushes. To passersby, it may have looked like a group of women enjoying a beautiful day with friends. The reason for the gathering though, was to promote healing and fellowship.
Fort Bliss Survivor Outreach Services office and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation special events staff hosted a Paint N’ Pour and luncheon here April 5 to publicly recognize and honor Gold Star spouses, whose loved ones paid the ultimate sacrifice.
For every person, grief is different. There are often stages of grief not initially foreseen, and healing is not linear.
Survivor Outreach Services is an Army program designed to offer long-term support services to surviving family members. These services help to ensure the availability of an Army connection for as long as the family wishes. The SOS staff here organizes various programs and outings for the surviving families in the area. These gatherings intend to help with coping, build camaraderie and provide support groups.
“SOS as a whole tries to have different activities at least once or twice a month to bring the families of the fallen together,” said Helen Barrientes, Fort Bliss SOS program manager. “Through these group activities we’ve learned that as the families come together, they form a family of their own. It is a unique demographic. They create not only a friendship or a bond, they help one another grieve as well as progress through the process.”
Although Gold Star families have been recognized for years, the Department of the Army recently designated April 5 as the official Gold Star Spouses Day.
After painting, the women laughed over lunch while they discussed how their final products turned out, amongst other things.
“This is my first time attending,” said Stacey Rittal, a surviving spouse. “This was very nice. It was kind of a stress reliever, and helps take your mind off of things. It makes you feel at home. It’s comfortable and there’s no judgement here.”
As the afternoon ended, the women gathered their paintings and hugged one another goodbye. Several made plans to get together again soon. They left with smiles on their faces.
“All of us came here to spend time together and remember the loved ones we have lost,” said Jennifer Davis, a surviving spouse. “These programs offer a lot of support. They help us through hard times. We encourage one another to push forward. It makes life a little easier when you feel hopeless, like you’ve lost everything.”
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