Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said that while the Army has made progress in helping families cope with the death of service members, there is a ways to go.
Odierno observed that every situation involving sudden death is different. “No one knows what a family wants except that family,” he said. “What we can do is offer them choices. “
Speaking of Survivor Outreach Services, Odierno said, it is vital that family members have access to the services and feel comfortable with those they deal with. People, he said, must also be helped to understand what’s available and know how to get in touch with the right people. “That’s where we need the most work, he said.
He called for stronger links between SOS and TAPs (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) and other private nonprofits to fill the gaps in support for survivors.
The military, he said, “is not doing a good job is ensuring that every citizen understands what a Gold Star means, what a Gold Star family member is.” Family members of deceased service members are entitled to wear a Gold Star.
Odierno said he has gotten to know many Gold Star families but is particularly close to one—the family whose son was driving a vehicle that his son was commanding in Baghdad in 2004 when it was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. Their son was killed and his son Anthony, a platoon commander, badly injured. Odierno said Anthony “often talks to me that he lives his life for his driver.”
“I look at the sacrifices that family has made and what they’ve gone through, “the general said, “and me and my wife want to make sure we’re there to help them any way we can.”
Offering a window on his own shock at the news of his son’s injury, Odierno recalled he was briefed on his son’s injury, adding “You don’t recall half of what people tell you.