Air Force further embraces “Gold Star” families

Lt. Col. José Antonio Lebrón, Joint Task Force-Bravo joint security forces commander, Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, salutes his nephew’s, Senior Airman Gabriel Antonio Fuentes Lebrón, 18th Security Forces Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, casket during a dignified arrival in Jacksonville, Fla., May 30, 2017. A dignified arrival is the process by which, upon the return from the theater of operations to the United States, the remains of fallen military members are transferred from an aircraft to a waiting vehicle and then to the port mortuary. Lebrón passed away in Okinawa, May 19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

Lt. Col. José Antonio Lebrón, Joint Task Force-Bravo joint security forces commander, Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, salutes his nephew’s, Senior Airman Gabriel Antonio Fuentes Lebrón, 18th Security Forces Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, casket during a dignified arrival in Jacksonville, Fla., May 30, 2017. A dignified arrival is the process by which, upon the return from the theater of operations to the United States, the remains of fallen military members are transferred from an aircraft to a waiting vehicle and then to the port mortuary. Lebrón passed away in Okinawa, May 19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Losing a loved one is never easy, especially for those who have to bury their fallen military family members killed in action.

To help ease the mourning process, Moody recently introduced their installment of the Air Force’s Gold Star program, which further embraces surviving family members by assisting them to receive a lifetime of support and care.

The deceased member’s parents, adult children and siblings will now have unescorted access to Air Force installations in the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii. These individuals can now receive immediate and long-term assistance through resources such as military survivor seminars, grief camps for young survivors, peer mentors and casualty care assistance.

“It’s important to continue encouraging (survivors) to be a part of our Air Force family by inviting them to base events and providing grief and loss resources,” said Peggy Beauvais, 23d Force Support Squadron chief of Airmen & Family Readiness Center. “We are here to listen and support in any way we can because we know sometimes the grieving process is never-ending.”

Before the program, members listed on the Virtual Record of Emergency Data were provided support that was primarily geared towards funerals and memorials on the installation and Causality Assistance Office visitations explaining benefits the member may have left behind. However, once the insurance was paid, contact with the military deceased. Since 2014, however, actions have taken place to reverse this trend.

For Beauvais, the new program’s implementation embodies the Air Force’s culture of taking care of our own.

“By recognizing the sacrifices of grieving families while also connecting with them through the Gold Star program’s services, we are taking another step toward embracing this culture,” said Beauvais.

The “Gold Star” culture dates back to World War I when surviving family members would decorate flags with gold stars, recognizing the loss of a loved one from battle. In the past, survivors would normally receive a U.S. flag and a lapel pin with a gold star resting on a purple background – now, families receive Gold Star identification cards for a lifetime of dedicated services.

“Family members are critical in making sure our Airmen are resilient,” said Brig. Gen. Kathleen Cook, the Air Force Services director. “This program reminds family members that they are still part of the greater Air Force family and is just one more way of showing them we value what they bring.”

For Gold Star families considering program membership, contact the base AFRC at 229-257-3333.