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Healing after a Service Member dies

When a member of the Armed Forces is killed in combat or even in a training exercise, the sorrow strikes in waves. It might first hit the teammates who were there, his or her spouse, children, parents and siblings, other members of the unit, extended family and friends, then the wider military family. The community that watched the service member grow from a child into a responsible, dedicated and courageous adult may be the last affected, but the loss may be felt acutely back home, as well.

So how can those of us outside the military best honor and respect the sacrifices those in the military are willing to make for all Americans? Here are some suggestions for how to help the various communities heal after the death of a Service Member:

Close family. Whether you have ever met the fallen service member’s family, it’s kind to send a sympathy card. You can express your gratitude and acknowledge their grief. If you had a relationship with the service member who died, be sure to share memories with the surviving family. The funeral home that handles arrangements can forward any mail if you do not have a mailing address, and you usually can leave a message on the funeral home’s website. If you live nearby, offer the gift of your presence by attending any memorial or funeral service. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Do not ask the circumstances of the death or dwell on the details.

• If you are near the family and a friend, make concrete offers of help rather than vague “Let

me know if you need anything” offers.

• Flowers for the funeral service are nice, but consider donating to a non-profit whose

mission aligns with the service member’s passions.

Teammates. You can send a sympathy card to the commander of the service member’s unit, and ask him or her to share it with those on the team. Mailing addresses for military bases and units can generally be found online. If you happen to know specific teammates, you might reach out them on social media to extend your sympathies. It’s good for those who serve to know others also remember the ones who have fallen.

Home Community. Those who knew the fallen service member as a child or teenager will want to take steps to honor their memory, such as erecting monuments, benches or plaques at a high school, cemetery or park. You can donate to such efforts, and you can keep the service member’s memory alive by writing a letter to the editor of the local paper or becoming a member of social media groups honoring the fallen. You can participate in athletic events that honor the fallen locally or nationally, and “adopt” the name of a particular service member.

Our mission at the Special Forces Charitable Trust is to support and sustain programs that enrich the well-being, healthy living, and strong family bonds of our Green Beret Force. As part of that mission, we step in when tragedy strikes to help Special Forces Soldiers’ Families with assistance not covered by the federal government or other agencies, such as transportation, lodging, memorial receptions and mementos. You can help us honor those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice by donating here. For more information, you can contact us at (860) 767-1510 or by email at You’ll never regret an act of generosity!

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