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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 Saturday, Aug. 30, the 242nd day of 2014. There are 123 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: A large pair of elk, captured in Iowa, were exhibited in Market Square today.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Rock Island Arsenal dam was being constructed under the supervision of Charles Frances, of Lowell, Mass.
1914 — 100 years ago: Mrs. Frank Mixer, of Rock Island, was the winner of the final preliminary for the women's handicap golf cup at Rock Island arsenal links.
1939 — 75 years ago: Sixteen hundred persons — many from war-fearful Europe — arrived in New York aboard the German liner Bremen. For two days on the trip, passengers were cut off from the world with both incoming and outgoing radio messages banned.
1964 — 50 years ago: Police reported five youths have been involved in the theft of about seven cars in recent weeks. Three of the youths were arrested Saturday afternoon, one was in custody as the result of a previous arrest, and the fifth is expected to be arrested today.
1989 — 25 years ago: The Rock Island/Milan School Board is asking the city to tear down Franklin School and allow the school district to pay back the estimated $100,00 cost during 10 years.






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