Gold Star families have new light on the horizon


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Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2009, 6:13 pm
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Sean Leary, sleary@qconline.com
An Army widow has brought a softer side to the military.

Donna Engeman's husband, Chief Warrant Officer John W. Engeman, was killed in Iraq on May 14, 2006. She's channeled that loss into help for others, leading the Army Survivor Outreach Services.

"After John died, it was like I lost my world,'' Ms. Engeman said. "I hope that, somehow, I can make things less difficult for other families and widows in that same situation.''

Her efforts, augmenting the Gold Star program for survivors of Army casualties, offer counseling, help and a conduit to existing military programs for those mourning the loss of a loved one in battle.

"The Army is great at fighting wars, at training for war, but maybe not so good at understanding the softer side of things when dealing with families who experience casualties,'' Ms. Engeman said. "This is a very emotional thing. When John died, they were good at helping set up the funeral and getting benefits to me, but I felt that once that was over, the door was closed.

"He was in the Army for 28 years -- it was a part of our lives -- so when he died, it was like, suddenly, I was all alone, like I didn't have that family,'' she said. "It wasn't about the money. It was about the support and being able to find your place in the world.

"There are a lot of young widows out there with children who are suddenly thrown into the work force and having to deal with the the grieving and mourning process,"Ms. Engeman said. "What I want the program to do is be able to provide counseling and peer-to-peer support groups, but also job training and help for the spouses and families. And a lot of these services already exist, but people aren't aware of them.''

Ms. Engeman has served in the federal government for 13 years, most recently as a logistics management specialist with the Tank and Automotive Command at the Rock Island Arsenal. The idea for the new program came to her a little more than a year ago, and she diligently pursued it through military channels before getting approval, and the top job.

She'll be the point person for implementing programs, hiring staff and making sure the program stays true to its goal, she said.

"We also want to raise awareness about the Gold Star program,'' she said. "We don't wear a uniform. We don't have the visible scars of battle. But believe me, our hearts are deeply scarred.''

However, through the program and her involvement, she believes she'll find at least a modicum of healing, she said.

"When I think about what happened, sometimes I'm just trying to find something positive to come out of it, and maybe this is it,'' Ms. Engeman said.

"This'll be my fourth move since John died,"she said. "I just feel so lost trying to fit in. But maybe this time I'll be able to put down some roots. I know I can't really share this with him, but it feels good to do it. It feels good.''

For more information on the Gold Star program, see www.goldstarmoms.com.














 



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  Today is Thursday, July 31, the 212th day of 2014. There are 153 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: A corps of surgeons now occupies the new hospital quarters at the Garrison Hospital on the Rock Island Arsenal. A fence has been installed to enclose the prison hospital.
1889 -- 125 years ago: B. Winter has let a contract to Christ Schreiner for a two story brick building with a double store front on the south side of 3rd Avenue just west of 17th Street. The estimated cost was $4,500.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Germany sent simultaneous ultimatums to Russia and France, demanding that Russia suspend mobilization within 12 hours and demanding that France inform Germany within 18 hours. In the case of war between Germany and Russia, France would remain neutral.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Civil service offices at the post office and the Rock Island Arsenal were swamped as more than 700 youths sought 15 machinist apprenticeships at the Arsenal.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Last night, American Legion Post 246 in Moline figuratively handed over the trousers to a female ex-Marine and petticoat rule began. Olga Swanson, of Moline, was installed as the first woman commander of the post .
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illinois Quad City Civic Center captured the excitement and interest of a convention of auditorium managers this weekend in Reno, Nev. Bill Adams, civic center authority chairman, said the 10,000-seat arena planned for downtown Moline has caught the eye of construction firms, suppliers, management teams and concession groups.








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