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Grieving families find support in SOS
Group makes suvivors part of Army family
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Tammi Gillican knows what it’s like to survive the death of a soldier spouse. She said grief is something survivors learn to carry with them; it isn’t something one “gets over.”
“I think about Chuck every single day. It never goes away,” Gillican said. She likened her grief to a black cloud hanging over her shoulder.
“Some days it doesn’t cross your shoulder,” she said. “Other days it’s right in front of you. Everyone has to deal with (grief) differently. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life.”
Her husband, Army Sgt. Charles C. Gillican III, 35, died May 14, 2005, in a vehicle accident at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 118th Field Artillery Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade in Brunswick.
Sgt. Gillican’s unit had travele d ahead to prepare for the rest of the brigade’s arrival, Tammi Gillican explained.
Since SOS was not established until 2006, it was
several years before Gillican sought their services. She said SOS has helped make her loss easier to bear.
“We don’t feel forgotten — and we don’t feel alone,” she said.
Gillican, who was left to raise two daughters and a stepdaughter, needed assistance with confusing paperwork and paying for her oldest daughter’s college education. Her girls were 12, 14 and 16 when her husband died.
“I’m a civilian, I don’t understand that stuff (military documents),” she said. “Every time I have a question now, it’s really nice to pick up the phone and call (SOS).”
Gillican received help at Fort Stewart’s SOS office, and now sees SOS support coordinator Neil Russell at Hunter Army Airfield.
Russell helped Gillican and her daughter apply for scholarships. 
“We don’t have to worry about college tuition for the rest of this year,” she said. “They (SOS) go way above the call of duty.”
Teresa White, SOS support coordinator at Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield, said although SOS is an Army program they will assist any military family that has suffered an active duty death. The manner of death makes no difference, she said, whether it happened in the line of duty, was accidental, the result of illness or self-inflicted.
“Survivors are always part of the Army family,” White said.
She said casualty assistance officers automatically refer survivors to a benefit coordinator and SOS. SOS outreach coordinators and financial counselors then step in to refer survivors to whatever services are needed, White said.
“The services we provide are compassionate resource assistance,” she said. “I’ve helped survivors look for jobs, I’ve helped them secure counseling, make them appointments with financial assistance so they can work out a budget … It’s my job to point them in the right direction.”
White said she became an SOS outreach coordinator when the program began at Fort Stewart in April 2009. The survivors they see the most are spouses, parents, children and siblings, she said.
“We never turn a survivor away,” White said. Some clients lost their soldiers years ago, some experienced their soldier’s death just weeks ago, she said.
Despite the emotional drain of dealing with others’ grief, the outreach coordinator is passionate about her job.
 “I am an Army wife, I am an Army daughter, I am an Army sister,” she said. “This is my life. There’s no greater honor than to serve the families of the Army.”
White said in addition to resource referral, SOS arranges events and ceremonies for survivors. A Gold Star Ceremony will be held to honor the parents of fallen 3rd Infantry Division soldiers at 2 p.m. today at the Marne Chapel on post.
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