It has been nearly 14 years since Mac and Lydia Love’s son was killed in Iraq. They say having a Survivor Access Badge for access to Redstone Arsenal and all Army installations has been helpful through the years.
Gold Star families at Redstone Arsenal have been given survivor’s badges through One Stop and then the Survivors Outreach Services program for the past eight years. The look of the badge will be changing this year after a new process went into effect in January designed to make it easier for Gold Star and next-of-kin survivors to visit Army installations.
“The Army values people, especially our Gold Star spouses and family members,” Lt. Gen. Doug Gabram, commander of the Installation Management Command, said. “This change allows them to more easily receive the benefits and services to which they are entitled, and helps enable them to remain connected to the Army.”
IMCOM is directing policy compliance and training for its 75 garrisons and installations.
The new survivor’s access policy allows qualified survivors to get through gate security more easily and travel on post without an escort to attend events, view memorials, receive services and similar activities using their survivor’s access card.
In the last six months at Redstone Arsenal, Survivor Outreach Services Coordinator Kerrie Branson said she issued 18 Survivor Access Badges. The process involved the required background check and physically putting together the badge with a photo, typewriter and lamination.
She said survivors who are eligible for a 1602 Survivor Access Badge must have a DD 1300, Report of Casualty, listing them as a next of kin on the document. This is the document verifying that they are a survivor of an active duty death.
1st Lt. Scott Love was 32 when he was killed in Ramadi, Iraq, on June 7, 2006. An improvised explosive device was detonated near the Humvee he was riding in, causing his death.
His parents were among the first families to utilize Redstone’s Survivors Outreach Services program after it launched in March 2010. Spouses and children of fallen warriors have military identification cards. Parents, grandparents and siblings have to get a Survivor Access Badge in order to easily access services and attend special memorial events.
“For the first year or two especially, something like this is really important,” Mac Love said. “We didn’t have it at first, it came about some time later but it is convenient when you need to take care of things.”
Ron Thomas, director of operations for the Garrison, said it’s important to remember the families of our nation’s fallen warriors.
“We say when you’re a Soldier you are a Soldier for life,” Thomas said “That’s not just for those who are active duty, it is for all who have served, especially those heroes and their families who have given their ultimate sacrifice.”
Branson said she’s seen the importance of the Survivors Access Badge for each family as quickly as possible because they have to completely rely on a casualty assistance officer to escort them without it.
“We had a woman who came here to provide a Gold Star Mothers event and she said, ‘You won’t believe how lucky you are here to have it,’” Branson recalled. “We’ve done it because it helps our families.”
It helps to keep the military connection alive, she said.
The Loves agreed.
“Redstone is always honoring us or there is something going on that we can attend and that’s nice,” Lydia Love said. “We do still feel connected and it’s nice. Mac was in Vietnam and we know people, friends who died over there and with their families there was just no communication … so we know a lot of folks don’t have this luxury.”
“A lot have just been left on their own,” Mac Love added. He is part of an advisory group that meets in Washington, D.C. “We discussed the problem of people not actually getting their access cards or able to access installations.”
The couple said they are glad their experience has been different.
The new badge will comply with the Army’s Automated Installation Entry system, scheduled for implementation on Redstone this year. Installations without AIE will continue using DA Form 1602 for survivors’ access.
To track survivors’ feedback on the new process, the Interactive Customer Evaluation survey added new questions to help determine customer satisfaction with outreach efforts.
“The Army honors our surviving family members by ensuring their access to our installations and Army-led joint bases,” IMCOM Provost Marshal Col. Kevin Comfort said.
The new process resulted from Section 626 of Public Law 115-232, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2019. The law recognizes survivors as having a valid requirement for long-term, unescorted access to Army installations.
Survivor Access Badges will be consistent across the Army and will be valid for three years. Department of Defense leaders are determining policy to provide reciprocity for survivor’s cards across all services.
For more information on Survivor Outreach Services, visit www.armymwr.com/programs-and-services/personal-assistance/survivor-outreach.