America Supports You: Group Hosts Survivors Conference
By Sharon Foster
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2008 The United Warrior Survivors Foundation will host its fifth annual West Coast Survivors Conference Aug. 22-25 in San Diego.
“These conferences were established with the unique needs of Special Forces widows in mind, affording them a healing experience and sense of camaraderie and support,” Kelly Chott, foundation administrator, said.
The conference brings together Special Forces widows at various stages of bereavement and includes an array of speakers and experts in the fields of military widowhood, bereavement, financial planning, benefits and entitlements, as well as practical classes in self-defense and coping with their children’s grieving process, Chott explained.
Conference organizers encourage all surviving spouses of U.S. Special Operations personnel who have died in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001, to attend. The conference also is open to surviving spouses of those who died while on volunteer support or re-supply missions to Special Operations teams.
The overall goal of the conference is to provide a safe and fun setting for sharing stories and challenges and forging bonds with others who have suffered similar tragedies, Chott said.
"The ‘survivor reunions’ bring all of us together, and we form this amazing bond,” said Jackie Syverson, widow of Army Maj. Paul Syverson of the 5th Special Forces Group. “Before my first reunion, I would wake up in the morning and wonder how I was going to make it through another day, feeling all alone in what I was facing.
“I left the reunion renewed,” she continued, “and with a new group of friends that are walking this path along with me. United Warrior Survivors Foundation gives us the chance to come together, share experiences and help one another through the grieving process. That is priceless, and has truly changed my life."
Because of the overwhelming response to the West Coast Conference, United Warrior Survivors Foundation had its first East Coast conference several years ago.
“These reunions are lifelines for all surviving spouses,” said Emily Munoz, widow of Army Capt. Gil Munoz of the 7th Special Forces Group.
United Warrior Survivors Foundation, a home-front group of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program, was founded in 2002 in direct response to the loss of life in the global war on terror. Through counseling, emergency financial aid and financial planning, the group has extended help to more than 150 widows. Annually, it offers scholarships to college-bound Special Operations surviving spouses.