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A time to remember: Fallen heroes honored at Fort Bliss

Fort Bliss

POSTED: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 5:21pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 5:42pm

Just as the American Soldier swears to support and defend the Constitution, the Army swears to care for that Soldier’s family should they fall in the line of duty.

Since combat operations began more than 10 years ago, nearly 7,000 American troops have fallen in support of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns – many of whom were survived by husbands, wives, children and loved ones.

To care for those individuals, the Army established Survivor Outreach Services, a program that provides professional services and resources to surviving families while also strengthening the support community for those left behind. 

What’s unique about the SOS program is its passion and commitment to ensuring families of fallen Soldiers, and their sacrifices, are never forgotten.

“Families don’t ask to be survivors,” said Helen Barrientes, coordinator of the Fort Bliss SOS program. “It’s a life changing event for them and they should be remembered.”

To commemorate families and their fallen heroes, the Fort Bliss SOS program holds an annual remembrance event near the Memorial Day holiday. On May 3, SOS unveiled their “A Time to Remember” memorial during a ceremony at Freedom Crossing’s Grand Hall.

“We try to remember our fallen every year and so I wanted to try something different,” said Barrientes. “This year we’ve asked families to give Fort Bliss the opportunity to know their hero.”

The gallery of framed scrapbook pages, which were constructed by surviving family members, highlighted 20 fallen troops and their lives outside the uniform.

“I thought it would be a great idea to showcase our fallen service members other than being a Soldier,” said Barrientes, who began the project in January. “A lot of their lives were captured in these scrapbook pages.” 

One of the surviving parents called the memorial a beautiful way to honor those who lost their lives to a cause that allows others to live theirs.

“Events like this mean a lot because it shows we are still keeping alive the idea of what we stand for as a nation,” said Tommy Mills, whose son’s scrapbook page is hung directly above the display’s gold star.

“I want people to realize he was the dynamics of our family,” said Mills, “that he was important to someone other than America. He was a father, a husband, a son.”

Mills lost his son, Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Mills, four years ago while he was deployed to Afghanistan with the 7th Special Forces Group. And while he admits the pain still lingers, Mills said he is happy to know organizations like SOS continue to care for families.

“This is just one of the ways we remember and pay tribute to their sacrifice,” said Barrientes. “Next year we will do something even more special.” 

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