In February 2017, the entire Special Ops Survivors board of directors voted unanimously to expand the organization’s services to other loved ones of Special Operations personnel. The eligibility expansion has evolved with the needs of the Special Operations population and aims to provide more support to other survivors within the shared community.
This new expansion will pave the way for survivors who have built a life with their hero but were not legally married at the time of their hero’s passing and survivors of those who succumbed to illness or injury (such as cancer and suicide, among others) related to their service even after their retirement. This decision to expand eligibility comes on the heels of expansion two years ago to open up services beyond the original post-9/11 criteria so that spouses of fallen Special Ops Personnel who lost their loved one after 1980 would be included.
“This decision was made with tremendous thought and examination by seeking input from leaders in our field as well as surveying our current service population,” says Sara Wingerath-Schlanger, executive director of Special Ops Survivors. “We consulted with other like-minded organizations by examining the possible resources needed as well as the trends in the Special Operations sector. Each of us at Special Ops Survivors are excited about the opportunity to serve others and are hopeful that their inclusion will further our culture of support and resilience.”
Special Ops Survivors was formed in 2002 by an active duty Navy Seal. Special Ops Survivors is the only nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to serving surviving spouses of active duty Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Special Operations personnel who have died in combat or training. The organization embraces and empowers survivors to build healthy, post-loss futures as they transition to their new lives by providing individual, group, and peer-to-peer emotional support as well as individual financial support.
Special Ops Survivors understands the healing power of not weathering a tragedy alone. Surviving spouses are bonded both by how their spouses died and by how they lived as Special Operations families. Because of this, the bonds formed among these surviving spouses are both strong and lasting. While Special Ops Survivors cannot bring back a survivor’s loved one, the organization’s programs help survivors ease the transition to a new life – a life that honors the legacy of their loved one. This is accomplished by providing access to a community of other survivors who have gone through, survived and overcome similar obstacles.
As Special Ops Survivors has grown as an organization and more resources have become available, the organization feels confident that they can provide the same level of support and service to these new survivors who can now access services at the organization.