Support group created for surviving spouses

7 Feb 2007 | Lance Cpl. Christopher Lyttle

The Surviving Spouses Support Group recently held a meeting at the Commissioned Officer’s Club to produce plans to reach out to spouses of fallen Marines and Sailors with support.

The group, established in April 2006, is sponsored by II Marine Expeditionary Force, and aspires to reach out to spouses who have endured a recent loss during their service member’s active duty.

Lieutenant Gen. Keith J. Stalder, commanding general, II MEF, attended the meeting and expressed his concern in helping spouses maintain their connection with units. He opened the floor to suggestions on helping the group become available to others.

“Everyone deserves the best possible help at the worst possible times, and spouses can help teach our Casualty Assistance Calls Officers to make our program better,” Stalder said, acknowledging issues CACO personnel have with providing thorough information to spouses.

Attendees made suggestions to improve the line of communication between units and spouses, as well as announcing the Spouse Survivors Network Program, which mirrors the responsibilities of units’ Key Volunteer Programs, but caters specifically to the Surviving Spouses Support Group. The network program also serves as a continuum in providing resource information for things like benefits, peer support and contacting chaplains.

Vivianne C. Wersel, a member of the Surviving Spouses Support Group, has taken an active role in the group and network program. She described how these programs are beneficial to spouses who need a different level of support.

“No one understands the pain a spouse goes through except another who validates the same loss,” Wersel said. “The group is by no means a pity party, but a way to help others make progress. We are making changes because others are able to share their stories that I believe are better than what a licensed counselor can offer.”

Wersel said the first step in developing the program is getting input from spouses. This input is essential for supporters like Marine Corps Community Services and the local Jacksonville area, so they may assist spouses with particular needs.

Mona Padrick, president of the Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce, talked about efforts from local bases and non-profit organizations that provide a safety net for surviving spouses.

“Project CARE is our local program that benefits spouses of members currently deployed, as well as endeavoring to help surviving spouses with their everyday needs,” Padrick said.

Events like a car-care clinic will be provided, as well as other functions to assist surviving spouses with everyday needs, Padrick said.

“The Jacksonville-Onslow community is supportive of the Surviving Spouses Support Group, and we stand ready for anyone in need,” Padrick said.

Commander Dale C. White, the 8th Marine Regiment chaplain, and Navy Capt. Bryan J. Weaver, II MEF chaplain, are originators of the Surviving Spouses Support Group, and said they are teamed up for the next two years in order to ensure the group’s development.

Wersel said the group is necessary to have a forum for widows and widowers from the Global War on Terrorism to fit in. She also expressed her hopes to reach surviving spouses outside of the area.

“Camp Lejeune is a vanguard for the program, and it should be available at all bases. In the future, I hope it’s something that will be doctrined and sanctioned by Headquarters Marine Corps,” Wersel said.

Members like Kim Goodwin, said she finds comfort in knowing there’s help available within the Marine Corps community.

“Talking to others seems to be the best healing,” Goodwin said. “We just need others to realize we’re here, and I think the Marine Corps is awesome for embracing us.”