Story by Bryan Gatchell, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs
Photos by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Sept. 25, 2017) – The family members of fallen service members gathered at the Benning Club here Sunday for a formal brunch in honor of them, their loss, and their strength.
The Survivor Outreach Service, part of the Army Community Service, held the Gold Star Mothers’ and Families’ Day Brunch, which celebrated 14 Gold Star Mothers and their families within the Fort Benning area.
The U.S. Congress designated the last Sunday in September as “Gold Star Mother’s Day” in 1936, which was changed to “Gold Star Mothers’ and Families’ Day” in 2012 by presidential proclamation. The nationally recognized day honors the families who lost service members in any branch of the U.S. military.
Brig. Gen. Christopher T. Donahue, Infantry School commandant at the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, was the keynote speaker at the event.
“You are a part of the family, a part of the fabric of everything that we do,” said Donahue. “Thank you for everything you’ve done. We know it’s never easy. Just know that we are here for you.”
Col. Clinton W. Cox, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning commander, also spoke at the event.
“The folks in this room are heroes too,” said Cox. “This is your home, here at Fort Benning.”
Survivor Outreach Services, or SOS, provides support to the family members of U.S. military service members who died during active duty. In addition to the annual Gold Star Mothers’ and Families’ Day, SOS provides financial counseling, referral services to governmental and non-governmental organizations, special monthly events, and monthly steering committees. According to Megan Baumgartner, the coordinator for SOS at Fort Benning, the purpose of the organization is to ensure “that any Gold Star Family member never feels forgotten, and that the sacrifice of their service member is not forgotten either.”
Although this event is celebrated nationwide, Fort Benning tries to make it a unique event for its Gold Star community.
“We all recognize our mothers on this day or around this time of year on every installation, but we like to do something a little bit more formal and fancy and set some time aside to make the moms feel a little extra special,” said Baumgartner. “We are here to celebrate the life and the legacy of our family that are no longer with us.”
Alonzo Stewart, as financial counselor for SOS, ensures that recent Gold Star Family members are aware of the financial choices they may be facing. Beyond addressing family members’ practical financial concerns, Stewart said the program and this event in particular are means to express the family members’ continued connectedness to the military family.
“We want the mothers to still understand that they are still part of the fabric of the Army,” said Stewart. “They are a part of this family.”
Stewart also said the event served as a networking opportunity.
“Sometimes this Gold Star Mother may be going through something that this Gold Star Mother is getting ready to go through, and they can support each other,” said Stewart. “It brings them together, it connects them back to the military community – as you can see a connection to the leadership at Fort Benning – and everybody plays a part in addressing the needs of those family members.”
“We get to see the ladies we haven’t seen in the last year,” said Marian Findley, a Gold Star Mother attending the event.
Findley lost her son Spc. Phillip Scott Findley Jr. in 2009.
“Any family, any mom or father, that has lost a son or daughter, one of the best things they can ever do for themselves is to find a group and get involved with a Gold Star Family event,” said Findley. “Find out what your son’s base does at least once a year, that they honor their Soldiers. Be involved in that because that is the greatest thing that you can ever do for yourself. That is a pure selfish thing, but for yourself and for helping your son or daughter, that is the best thing that you can ever do.”
To learn more about Survivor Outreach Services, visit https://benning.armymwr.com/programs/survivor-outreach-services.
For more photos from the event, visit www.fortbenningphotos.com/Garrison/DFMWR/Directorate-of-Family-and/2017-09-24-Gold-Star-Mothers-Day-Brunch.
For the video of the event, visit http://benningnews.org/2017/09/29/gold-star-brunch-video or play below: