By Sgt. 1st Class Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) coordinators from across the globe gathered in Louisville, Aug. 6-8 for the National Guard Bureau Survivor Service Annual Conference.
It was the first time coordinators from each of the three U.S. Army components came together for such an event. The conference also included Military Funeral Honors (MFH) coordinators.
The conference is designed to provide professional development to two extremely important groups of military family support. Kentucky’s Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton and adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Stephen Hogan welcomed the attendees at the opening ceremonies, Aug. 6.
“It’s hard to find two more critical services the military provides than survivor services and funeral honors,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. (R) John Grant, Assistant Program Manager, ANG Survivor Services. “The work these coordinators provide is of the utmost importance to our military families. We are honored to host them in the commonwealth.”
Coordinators at the conference discussed updated information in their fields in the form of directives, regulations and laws. They also heard from subject matter experts from across the National Guard, Military Funeral Honors Program, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Installation Management Command and Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division.
Leigh Hill, West Virginia SOS Coordinator said SOS and MFH coordinators work hand in hand with each other, showing the commitment the Army has for families of the fallen.
“Even though we only get to do it one time a year, it is nice to be able to get together with your counterparts in the other states to team build, brain storm, share information and work as in our regions,” she said. “I have been with the SOS program for ten years and working with the families of fallen Service members has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had.”
Medal of Honor recipient, Hershel “Woody” Williams address the conference as the keynote speaker. Williams told stories of the importance of serving Gold Star families and thanked those in attendance for their support of the survivors. Williams’ foundation has been instrumental in the creation of 51 Gold Star Family memorials across the country.
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In addition to the conference agenda, coordinators were given the opportunity to experience local sites of the Louisville area and build relationships with each other for the benefit of the programs.
“We are incredibly proud to host these coordinators from around the globe and believe we have conducted a successful conference for NGB,” said Grant. “This is an opportunity for these coordinators to be recharged with new focus and a continued passion for caring for our survivor families.”