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Street festival chooses Gold Star as grand marshals

MADISON – Gold Star Family members will serve as Grand Marshals of the Madison Street Festival parade.

Gold Star Families are “the surviving families of fallen service members. These families lost a family member while he or she was active duty in the military,” Kerrie Branson said. Branson is Program Manager for Survivor Outreach Services, Army Community Service on Redstone Arsenal.

The next of kin in a Gold Star Family receives one of two pins. The Gold Star Lapel Pin is issued when a soldier died while deployed in a war zone, Branson said. The Next of Kin Lapel Pin is issued when a soldier died while on active duty from heart attack, cancer, accidents, suicide or similar fate.

“The MSF committee reviewed several very worthy groups to be honored. The decision was made to show Madison’s love and recognition of the tremendous sacrifices Gold Star Families have made by losing a loved one in the wars: spouse, mother, father, daughter, son, grandson, granddaughter,” committee member Faye Wishik said.

Debbie Hoover chairs the MSF parade.

Assisting Gold Star Families, Survivor Outreach Services is a Department of the Army program that was founded about 10 years ago. Redstone Arsenal SOS provides long-term support to 11 counties surrounding Redstone with more than 310 surviving family members. Branson gives one-on-one support for personal issues to survivors.

“We foster positive grief recovery and let them know they will never be forgotten,” Branson said. “We also provide observances to remember the survivors and their fallen service member.” One example of outreach is assisting a surviving child nearing high school graduation to apply for education benefits.

Branson cherishes her work with Survivor Outreach Services program, which “is long overdue and important. I love that we started with reaching out to post-9-11 survivors but, through advertisement and word of mouth, I’ve been able to reach out to other survivors from other conflicts.”

“It’s important to always remember the service and sacrifice of our service members and their families,” Branson said.

At Madison Street Festival as Grand Marshals, Gold Star Families will lead the parade, which starts on Oct. 7 at 9 a.m. on Mill Road and continues down Church Street to downtown. For more information, visit madisonstreetfestival.org.

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