For the second year in a row, families who have lost children gathered for the Walk to Remember at Fort Hood’s Spiritual Resiliency Center.
More than 35 adults and 20 children took part in the celebration of remembrance on Thursday afternoon.
Capt. James Russell, chaplain with Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, opened the ceremony with remarks of encouragement for the parents present, asking them to each pray from their own tradition, as he would do the same.
Together, the group read Bible verses, followed by a short call and response, “We Remember Them,” before embarking on a brief walk around the center. The walk ended at the reflection pool with a culminating balloon release.
The balloons were gender-neutral yellow and green, to symbolize all the children lost by the families present, Russell said.
October is designated as fetal demise and child remembrance month, and the Walk to Remember serves as a healthy way to observe these losses.
“So many mothers have told me, it never takes away the sting but it does bring healing,” Russell said of the event. “The child’s birthday and the day of the loss will always be a reminder.”
Many families aren’t able to have funerals for their lost children, being far from their hometowns and family, he said.
Several rainbow babies took part in the walk. These special children are ones who were born after the loss, symbolizing hope in the family, Russell said.
Kelli Sourbeck was present with her three living children, including 3-month-old rainbow baby Belle. Sourbeck lost her son, Brantlee Thomas, when she was 32-weeks pregnant with him in June 2012.
This was her second year attending the Walk to Remember, which she finds “very healing,” appreciating the sacred bond she shares with the other parents.
“There is no judgment — no loss is worse than any else’s,” Sourbeck said.
The family will be relocated to Korea soon, and Sourbeck hopes to find a similar event or to start one, if needed, at their new duty station.
“We know he has a purpose,” she said of her lost son, “But that doesn’t stop the hurt.”
The medical center offers a support group on the first and third Thursdays of each month in the hospital chapel. Fathers also are encouraged to attend.
“Men and women grieve differently,” Russell said, citing the array of emotions both parents experience following a loss.
Maj. Doren Owen, chief of maternal child health at Darnall, welcomed the families. She prepares memory boxes for families following a loss. These tokens of remembrance include, if possible, photos of the child, a lock of his or her hair, palm prints and a robe. They are sealed and given to parents as they leave the hospital.
Some of them will never open it, some will place it on a mantle, and others will do as Russell’s wife has done with the memory box of their son Joseph, and open it every once and a while for healing, Russell said.
“The joy will come back and healing will happen,” Russell said to the crowd. He encouraged them to share their thoughts and feelings and to have strength. “There is joy (to be found) in the walk — you are not alone.”