Survivors remember fallen at SOS ceremony

| November 19, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Vanessa Lynch
News Editor

Rafaela Lewis, former military spouse and mother of a National Guard Soldier, looks at the Wall of Honor and Remembrance in the Aloha Center, Nov. 10.FORT SHAFTER — In an emotionally charged ceremony at the Survivor Outreach Services Center, here, Nov. 10, friends and battle buddies hung 22 photos of fallen Soldiers from 1st Battalion,184th Infantry Regiment, 29th Brigade Combat Team, Hawaii Army National Guard, as they shared words of comfort and hope with their fellow survivors.

Their photos and stories were added to those already present on the center’s Wall of Honor and Remembrance in the Fort Shafter Aloha Center, here.

“We didn’t want to just hang photos; we wanted to … establish that connection with the families of the fallen,” said Mary Ann Christian, Hawaii National Guard SOS Outreach Services coordinator. “The families were so honored to receive our request to hang the pictures of their loved ones, and that Hawaii still considered them family.” 

The SOS Center is called “Halia Aloha,” Hawaiian for “cherished or loving memory,” which seemed especially appropriate as the photos were hung on the eve of Veterans Day. 

“They were all so courageous, “ said Col. Suzanne Vares-Lum, intelligence officer, Joint Forces Headquarters, Hawaii National Guard, about serving with the fallen warriors. “They went out without fear, because there was a mission to accomplish.

“It’s important for our country to never forget,” she continued. “The greatest tragedy is forgetting the fallen.”

The goal of SOS is to create a caring, committed and compassionate survivor-oriented team that is wholly dedicated to survivors. Also, SOS aims to provide consistent and valuable services, supply timely and useful information to assist in reducing stress, and ensure survivors know all about their entitlements.

“A survivor is anyone who has known or loved a Soldier, regardless of how they died,” said Lis Olsen, Army Community Service Outreach director, who knows first hand what it’s like to lose a loved one and about how crucial the services and programs are to survivors.

She lost her son, Cpl. Toby Olsen, in January 2007, and hung his photo on the center’s wall when it opened, Oct. 13.

“This is a place for survivors by survivors,” she said.

Halia Aloha will serve Hawaii’s families of Army active duty, National Guard and Reserve, and coordinate resources and referrals for Army, state and local programs. 

Olsen said that coping with the loss of a loved one can be an extremely difficult life experience. This reality is magnified when the loved one is a Soldier, as many times survivors are under more stress since they do not always know the services in place — whether in the Army or the community — to help them cope in myriad ways.

“We wanted to bring awareness to National Guard members that this place is for them, too, because losing Soldiers in combat is relatively new to them,” Christian said. 

“Having this center and knowing it’s here, battle buddies and families will always have a place to come to and remember their loved ones, because they live here all the time. Hawaii is their home,” she said. 

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