Elizabeth Kennedy Starrenburg will forever remember the knock she heard on her door on May 7, 1966.
At the door of her home near Fort Benning, Ga., were three people -- an Army officer, a chaplain and a woman who spoke German in case Starrenburg, a native of Germany, could not speak English.
"When I saw them, I knew what they were going to tell me," she recalled.
Starrenburg's husband, Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Kennedy, had been killed in action in Vietnam.
Because of her experience 43 years ago, Starrenburg wants to help other military families through the Survivor Outreach Support (SOS) program.
Fort Gordon is looking for survivors of soldiers who died from service-related conditions, whether they were killed in battle or died from complications of exposure to Agent Orange or other war injuries, said Suzanne Crosby, the SOS support coordinator.
Services are available to survivors who fought in wars as far back as World War II. Many of the families Crosby and her staff have helped since the program started in April are connected to the Vietnam War.
Crosby said records, especially from the Vietnam era, only have contact information from the last duty station of the soldier.
If the spouses moved away, contacting them is difficult, she said.
SOS takes up where the casualty assistance office leaves off.
Starrenburg, a Martinez resident whose son is Fort Gordon garrison commander Col. Glenn Kennedy, said the casualty assistance office helped her through the paperwork and other governmental procedures, but there was more she needed.
She found comfort and support through the other wives who lived around her in her neighborhood.
"So many of them had lost their husbands," she said. "It was the only support we had."
SOS also sponsors a support group that meets 6-7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at Fort Gordon's Family Outreach Center, Building 33512, behind Woodworth Library.
Crosby said there are many survivors who want to feel connected to the military after the death of a service member.
"Some have felt like they were just cut off from the military," she said.
Another area SOS can help with concerns faced by surviving children.
"When a minor child is nearing the age of adulthood, there are a lot of changes in benefits," she said.
To find out more about SOS, call Crosby at (706) 787-4767 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
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