Linda Mallon, a retired Army master sgt., found her niche working with veterans and their families in Granbury. She is a former claims administrator for Blue Shield of New Jersey and later senior personnel sergeant taking care of soldiers’ careers for more than 20 years.
Often we hear about service member’s family’s greatest fear while their spouse or child is serving in a combat environment, getting a “knock at the door” from individuals in dress uniform. We all know what that means but few know what happens afterwards.
Service members who die on active duty regardless of cause of death are assigned a Casualty Assistance Officer appointed on orders for a period of 30 days and their sole mission is to make sure the families are taken care of. CAOs are selected based on the rank and even in some cases the religious faith of the service member or their family so as to better understand the families sensitivities while assisting with final arrangements, filing VA claims for Dependent Indemnity Compensation and Soldiers Group Life Insurance, assisting them with social security and other duties as needed by the family.
I had the honor of serving three times as CAO while I was on active duty and although it is very difficult to see a family in grief, it was the most rewarding assignment I’ve ever had and inspired me to apply for the very position I hold today as Veteran Service Officer.
LOSING AN ACTIVE DUTY SERVICE MEMBER
Gold Star families are families who lost an active duty service member and although family support groups still embrace them as part of the service members unit of assignment there are other organizations to help them stay connected and engaged and a number of programs to assist them if needed.
Surviving spouses of veterans can also stay connected though our local service organizations like the VFW, the American Legion, DAV, Marine Corps League and Military Officers Association.
SERVICE RELATED ORGANIZATIONS
To find out more about programs for ALL surviving spouses and families, I reached out to Gail Joyce, a member of the Granbury Chapter of the Military Officers Association moaa.org and Gold Star Mother whose son Casey made the ultimate sacrifice in Somalia. She is a wealth of information.
MOAA Surviving Spouse Virtual Chapter meets the third Tuesday of each month virtually offering an opportunity to connect with other surviving spouses across the country, learn about benefits, and the latest information on important issues. These meetings include speakers and social time and is free to members of MOAA.
For information and to join, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The MOAA Surviving Spouses & Friends Facebook group provides latest information about issues important to surviving spouses and their families.
MORE OPTIONS FOR SURVIVORS
The Society of Military Widows www.militarywidows.org 1-800-842-3451ext 1011 or 1003 provides moral support, advice, and referral services.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) www.taps.org provides an array of programs, comfort and resources for the families of the fallen in addition to suicide loss support, comfort and hope 24/7 through a national peer support network and connection to grief resources to surviving families and loved ones to include grief camps for kids and families. Call 800-959-8277 or check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or Snapchat.
Gold Star Wives of America, Inc. goldstarwives.org, 888-751-6350 provides services and friendship to those who have lost their spouse to a military-related cause of death.
MOAA also connects families to The Elizabeth Dole Foundation Elizabethdolefoundation.org providing support, and empowering the spouses, parents, family members and friends who care for America’s wounded, ill or injured veterans at the local, state and national levels.
For more information about MOAA and services and benefits to surviving spouses, contact Gail Joyce at email@example.com.
We are looking at organizing a local Veterans Surviving Spouse Group to help them stay connected, provide support and stay up to date on resources available. If interested, please contact Gail Joyce or myself.