Too often, the surviving family members of our fallen heroes do not receive the attention they deserve. Life goes on for these families and the strength demonstrated by the spouses and children is nothing short of extraordinary.
Sara Compton is an attorney in Texas who lost her husband in November of 2014. He was an active duty 1st Sergeant stationed in Utah at the time of his suicide. Although Sara is originally from Southern California, she moved to Texas in order to raise her children in a way she felt would best represent her husband.
Sara’s situation is, unfortunately, all too common. The Gary Sinise Foundation’s Snowball Express program was created to provide surviving spouses like Sara with a safe space to interact and heal with their peers. We host a series of community events throughout the year, culminating in a December celebration that includes educational resources and workshops to help keep these families strong. This year, we sent our families to Walt Disney World Resort, the perfect location to make new memories with new friends.
“Snowball events are always so much fun. It's such a blessing to attend...and to get to know other families like ours, as well as the amazing staff and volunteers,” Sara told us. “For single parents, planning out the daily routine is enough of a struggle, so organizing a trip is almost impossible. It is truly a gift to get the opportunity to have fun with my girls and know that I do not have to be consumed with the planning and execution myself.”
“There are a lot of people who care about you, love you, and are praying for you, even if you haven’t met them yet.”
-Sara Compton, Wife of a Fallen Hero
Connecting these families allows them to engage with peers they may never have met otherwise. Sara formed a strong relationship with Joann Dudley and her four children through our Snowball Express program. “We didn’t know each other while our husbands were living, but we found we have many similarities," Sara explained. Coincidentally, both Sara and Joann moved to Texas after their loss. "We lost our husbands within a few months of each other. Snowball Express brings families like ours together and keeps us together.”
Being a spouse or child of a fallen hero is not a group anyone would seek to join. Few can relate to the difficulty of being unexpectedly removed from military life. “Beyond the grief and tremendous void, there is a sense of loss that comes with suddenly leaving and missing the active duty military community we were used to,” Sara said. “Organizations like the Gary Sinise Foundation help us through this adjustment by creating a support network that keeps us connected to the military community we love so much.”
To those who have recently lost a hero or who have not yet sought help, Sara has a message: “There are a lot of people who care about you, love you, and are praying for you, even if you haven’t met them yet.”