Hall of Remembrance Honors Fallen Troops
By Heather Graham
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT HOOD, Texas, Jan. 19, 2010 Army Spc. Jonathan Emard, 20, was killed June 4, 2008, in Tikrit, Iraq, when his unit was attacked by enemy forces using small-arms fire and hand grenades.
A photo of Army Spc. Jonathan Emard hangs in the Hall of Remembrance at Fort Hood, Texas. Emard was killed June 4, 2008, in Tikrit, Iraq. His family submitted the photo to honor their soldier’s memory and sacrifice. U.S. Army photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
At Fort Hood, his is one of 97 photographs of fallen servicemembers enshrined in the survivor outreach services program’s Hall of Remembrance.
The photos reflect the faces of fallen soldiers and Marines following their weddings, combat missions or other photo sessions. Some are in uniform, some are dressed casually, but all are represented the way their families wanted them to be remembered.
The hall has room for more than 700 photos, and staff members hope more survivor families choose to honor their soldiers on the walls of the hall. Whether their deaths were due to combat, homicide, suicide, training or vehicular accidents, all of them died while serving on active duty.
The soldiers pictured are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters whose memories live on not only in the hearts and minds of their loved ones, but now also in a solemn room here dedicated to their service and in memory of their sacrifices.
After their son was killed, the Emards were contacted by Fort Hood’s survivor outreach services – known as SOS -- but the family didn’t have time to deal with it. “That first year, there was just too much going on,” said Debbie, Jonathan’s mother. “We were just sort of overloaded.”
Later, the Emards got involved with the Fort Hood SOS program after learning about the Hall of Remembrance. “We wanted to see what it is all about,” Debbie said. The Emards liked the idea, so they contacted SOS and submitted a photo.
“It is honoring our son,” Debbie said. “It’s a good way to honor him.”
For their submission to the Hall, David and Debbie Emard chose a photo of their son wearing his uniform. “It’s how we wanted him remembered,” the soldier’s father said.
The Emards attended the private opening for the hall Dec. 22 and returned for the official opening Jan. 11, when Jonathan’s sister, Jennifer Marler, sang two original songs she wrote following her brother’s death.
Since their initial visit to Fort Hood SOS, the Emard family has become involved with the program, mostly for shared experiences with other surviving families.
“A lot of times we pick up something from other families,” David said. “It helps to help others.” For example, they said, they have learned their emotions of continued grief for their son’s loss are normal and are shared by many families who have lost a soldier.
Widow Denisa Thomas also has found much-needed support and assistance at the SOS office. Her husband, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Terry Thomas, an Apache helicopter pilot, was killed Sept. 19, 2006, during a training mission in Germany.
In the aftermath of his death, Denisa said, she initially sought assistance for herself and the couple’s two children, now 12 and 10, from a post at Illesheim, Germany.
Following a friend who helped her after her husband’s death, the German-born Bosnian came to Fort Hood in July. When she contacted SOS, Denisa said, she found the information and support she had sought. Her questions were answered, she found help enrolling her children in school, and found a group of people who understand her situation and experiences.
“It’s the kind of support everybody wishes and hopes for,” she said. “I really felt taken care of.”
Denisa attends meetings at SOS to share her experiences and listen to others’ stories. “We are all trying to move forward,” she said.
SOS staff members helped Denisa get her children enrolled in school here and provided a smooth transition for their move from Germany. The program also provides family life consultant services, financial and survivor benefits services and support groups to survivors.
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors shares office space and resources for comprehensive care and support to surviving family members. The SOS program continues to expand as part of the Army Family Covenant, the Army’s commitment to care for families.
“The program is in place and going strong,” said Janeth Lopez, the SOS program manager. “We are keeping our promise that the families are not forgotten.”
For most surviving families, that is the promise they seek – that their soldier is remembered and never forgotten. The Hall of Remembrance is for all active-duty casualties, and for all survivors, Lopez stressed.
“What better way to honor the fallen and their sacrifice?” she asked.
For the Emards, memorials and events have slowed since Jonathan’s death, and David and Debbie have had a chance to absorb the events of the past 18 months, but the grief process continues with the war and current events.
“You don’t get to a point where it stops,” Debbie said.
(Heather Graham writes for the Fort Hood Sentinel.)