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Survivors have a place to call home at Fort Benning

Survivor Outreach Services, a program created to help assist the survivors of fallen Soldiers, is getting a new home.

For the first time since September 2008, when it opened its doors at Fort Benning, SOS will have a permanent facility. Beginning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. March 22, SOS will be located on 7021 Ingersoll Ave. in Building 359 and will officially open for business at its new location.

The ribbon cutting will include Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, the Maneuver Center of Excellence commanding general, and survivors of fallen Soldiers.

“Our main focus is on the survivors,” said William Allen, Army Community Service Center operations specialist. “This is a building for them a resource for them.”The program’s staff serves about 518 survivors in 84 counties in northern Florida, southern Georgia, and eastern Alabama, Allen said.

“What I really believe is that survivors are going to see that the Army really cares about keeping them connected by providing a place where they are comfortable coming to,” Allen said. “By having the center here they (can) say ‘This is my center. My Soldier is honored here.’ I think this building is going to help us to bring our survivors in to get the services that they deserve.”

The center will continue its regular services of benefits coordination, financial counseling and survivor support. It will feature a number of rooms and services catered to survivors such as babysitting, a handicap access ramp, television room, kids’ room, counseling areas, reflection rooms, and a kitchen.

Allen said the center will also include a wall of heroes, which will be dedicated to fallen warriors.

“We’ll have our heroes’ pictures mounted on the wall where their families come in,” Allen said.

Starla De Saussure, acting SOS coordinator and installation volunteer program manager, was involved with the design concept for the center.

“(The concept was to) keep it in a more relaxing, home-type environment versus a clinical-industrial environment (where they can) feel the same warmth as in their home.” De Saussure said.

After researching ideas and getting input from survivors and other staff members, De Saussure said she found survivors were more willing to open up if they were in cozier environment. Her key concern, she said, was what the survivors wanted.

“I’m hoping the survivors will come and they will utilize (the center) to it’s fullest potential,” she said. “It’s our dedication to them because (their family members) made the ultimate sacrifice.”

De Saussure encourages survivors to stay involved in the Army family. Regular hours for the center are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information about SOS, call 706-545-4043.