Survivor Outreach Center rededicates support with new SB location

| September 21, 2015 | 0 Comments
Part of the Survivor Outreach Center rededication ceremonies, Wednesday, included the unveiling of the Memorial Stone, outside the new SOS Center, by Gold Star children Eleyna Villanueva  (7), Chelsea Briggs (17)  and Mylia Briggs (15). (Photos by Jack Wiers, Pau Hana Editor)

Part of the Survivor Outreach Center rededication ceremonies, Wednesday, included the unveiling of the Memorial Stone, outside the new SOS Center, by Gold Star children Eleyna Villanueva (7), Chelsea Briggs (17) and Mylia Briggs (15). (Photos by Jack Wiers, Pau Hana Editor)

Center honors service and celebrates lives of the fallen

Don Robbins
Contributing Writer
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — In a heartfelt ceremony, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii officially rededicated the Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) Center, now located at 663 Brannon Road, here, Wednesday.

The center had previously been located at Fort Shafter since 2010.
With the doors of the re-established SOS Center opened, families of the fallen will have that same long-term support and care to embrace them, here. Within this center, the SOS ohana will continue to honor the service and celebrate the lives of their fallen heroes.

Honor and remembrance
The SOS Center is called Hali’a Aloha, Hawaiian for “cherished or loving memory.”

Above, Karyn Hatakeyama (second from left), the mother of the late Air Force Capt. Reid Nishizuka, holds her son’s portrait at the SOS rededication ceremony.

Above, Karyn Hatakeyama (second from left), the mother of the late Air Force Capt. Reid Nishizuka, holds her son’s portrait at the SOS rededication ceremony.

Upon entering Hali’a Aloha, visitors are greeted by photographs and family reminiscences of Soldiers and other military service members who gave their lives for their country.

“Just as we did five years ago at Fort Shafter, our SOS families will have a special place of their own to honor and remember their loved ones and to support each other,” said Leonard Housley, deputy garrison commander of USAG-HI, in remarks at the ceremony.

“Our goal and our commitment remains exactly the same as it did back then – to provide the most caring, compassionate and efficient services we can to each of you,” Housley added.

Gold Star family members participated in the hanging of new portraits of their fallen family members at the center rededication on Wednesday. The new portraits included service members from the Army, Navy and Air Force.

One of those in attendance at the rededication was Karyn Hatakeyama. Her son was Air Force Capt. Reid Nishizuka, a pilot. Nishizuka died in 2013 when his plane crashed in Afghanistan. Hatakeyama said it was always Reid’s dream to become a pilot.

After she hung her son’s portrait on the wall, Hatakeyama reflected on his life and thanked Lis Olsen, the family support officer for Survivor Outreach Services,  for her assistance helping the family deal with the grief of their loss.

“Thank you for reaching out to me,” said Hatakeyama. “It’s been so helpful during the past two years. I can’t thank you enough.”

Cake cutting DSC_0327Wall of Honor
Olsen also offered remarks on the significance of the SOS Center’s “Wall of Honor and Remembrance.” She explained that it’s not how the service member died; it’s their service that the center honors.

She said that the center invites family members to place photos of their fallen service members on the wall, when they feel ready to do so, along with a written description of their family member.

“Write a love story, not an obituary,” she said.

The rededication ceremony also included an unveiling of a memorial stone and a blessing/untying of the maile lei by Gold Star children.

Further, the new SOS will be conveniently co-located with the Soldier and Family Assistance Center.

“We’re sharing resources with other programs. It’s a good fit,” Olsen said. “The new facility also had space for our Wall of Honor and Remembrance, which is a big piece of what we are.”

DSC_0340Program origins
The SOS program was established by the Army in 2008, following a rise in casualties from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation Enduring Freedom, with a mission to reach out to the families of the fallen.

The first SOS Center at Fort Shafter opened its doors in 2010 for Hawaii families. In an effort to recognize those fallen service members, 22 portraits were hung on the Wall of Honor and Remembrance. Today, with more than 100 portraits of fallen heroes, SOS continues to provide long-term support, resources and emotional connections for surviving families of fallen Soldiers.

More than 400 individual Gold Star survivors are in the system, receiving information and updates through newsletters, fact sheets, emails and through the many events and activities the program provides.

Lis Olsen (third from left), outgoing family support officer for the Survivor Outreach Services, greets SOS survivors and Soldier and Family Assistance Center director Hank Cashen (in orange), during the Wall of “Honor and Remembrance” portion of Wednesday’s rededication.

Lis Olsen (third from left), outgoing family support officer for the Survivor Outreach Services, greets SOS survivors and Soldier and Family Assistance Center director Hank Cashen (in orange), during the Wall of “Honor and Remembrance” portion of Wednesday’s rededication.

Sept. 27 Gold Star Families Event
Besides the rededication event on Wednesday, another ceremony will be held at 1 p.m., Sept. 27, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) to honor all Gold Star mothers, families and extended ohana.

Boots and lei will be placed at the base of the “Lady Columbia.” Boots representing fallen sons and daughters, brothers and fathers, will be placed on the steps, along with a “Lei of Remembrance.”

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Category: Community, Community Relations, Observances

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