Bringing Families of Fallen Servicemembers Together Print
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Spc. Dorian Daily, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment   
Friday, 11 November 2011 14:37

BELLEVILLE, IL (11/08/2011)(readMedia)-- Losing a family member can be difficult, especially when that loved one made the ultimate sacrifice while serving his or her country. However, those who grieve do not have to take the journey alone.

The Illinois Connections for Families of the Fallen (ICFF) held a conference "Connections in Southern Illinois: Bringing Families of the Fallen Together" on the campus of Southwestern Illinois College Nov. 5. ICFF is a coalition of more than 25 organizations, including the Army Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) program.

"ICFF ensures families are connected to resources, connected to their local community, and connected to peer support," said Bob Gillmore, the support coordinator of Army Survivor Outreach Services and native of Petersburg.

The event was open to the families of fallen servicemembers. Participants were asked to bring a personal token of remembrance to use as a symbol of strength.

The event was comprised of three tracks: groups/workshops, resources, and creative arts.

In the groups/workshops track, participants discussed how they coped with the loss of their servicemember. Everybody described their grieving process differently.

"We found that we were so busy, we really didn't have time to grieve," said Sheila Tracy of Palestine, who attended on behalf of her son, Pfc. Jacob Tracy.

In the resources track, participants learned how to improve advocacy skills, develop peer networks in their home area, reach financial goals, and change or restart their careers.

The creative arts tracks helped participants reveal a creative side some may have thought they never had.

"Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses a creative process and art materials to help people express themselves," said art therapist Leslee Goldman of Evanston. "When it comes to mourning a loved one, it becomes another language of expression for those who cannot find the words to say. The grieving process can be long and challenging and not everyone is comfortable with just talking."

Children also attended the event and participated in activities with their family. The activities were designed to help families share positive memories of their loved one.

"My dad was a really nice person who wanted to make his family happy and laugh," said a young Belleville participant describing his father, who served in the Marine Corps and Air Force. "He is irreplaceable."

Another young participant, Jayse Weikert of Jacksonville, described his father, Illinois National Guard Staff Sgt. Matthew Weikert in only one word: "Awesome!!!"

Participants also had the opportunity to contribute to The Memorial Mosaic Wall, which was created by using tile pieces. Everyone contributed one piece to create an entire picture. It will travel throughout Illinois to enable others to contribute to this ever evolving piece.

The purpose of the SOS program is to provide long-term support to families of the fallen. This is done by facilitating support groups, providing life skills education, and connecting Survivors with counseling resources. SOS also works closely with benefits coordinators, casualty assistance officers, and others to ensure survivors receive the necessary services.


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