By Shawn Raymundo
In conjunction with National Gold Star Spouses Day, the non-profit group Special Ops Survivors will host a fundraiser in San Juan Capistrano on Saturday, April 6.
Gold Star Spouses Day, which falls on Friday, April 5, is meant to pay tribute to the thousands of widows, or survivors whose spouses died while serving in the U.S. military.
The Special Ops Survivors organization specifically serves spouses of fallen special operations soldiers from the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and Marine Raiders, among others. Those Special Operations Forces from all four branches of the military make up the U.S. Special Operations Command, or USSOCOM.
“Our special warfare warriors are the most effective and lethal warfighters the world has ever seen. While they seek to be quiet professionals, they are, in fact, well known and feared by our nations’ enemies,” Andy Wirth, the organization’s board chairman, said in a press release. “When they die serving our nation, their widows, however, are not known; they often fade to the background of our society.”
A Congressional report released in late March notes that SOCOM has more than 70,000 active duty, National Guard, reserve and civilian personnel across the armed services and the Department of Defense.
“From out of the darkness and the challenges and the grief, come our programs and our organization helping these widows advance on their lives,” Wirth told The Capistrano Dispatch. He later added: “What we can do as a society is help them and support them in their grief.”
Special Ops Survivors serves nearly 300 widows throughout the nation, providing them with resources for materials and counseling to cope with the loss of their loved ones.
“Every facet of counseling that is associated with grief counseling, counseling associated with how to manage their finances, how to manage their household, we’re there to support them in almost every circumstance,” Wirth said.
Additionally, the spouses are also given opportunities to meet and connect with other survivors during the group’s annual Survivors Conference, Wirth said.
“What we found is really central … identifying with others who share that same grief, helps them. In this case, we get them together, in this case, ‘sisters,’ that have lost loved ones,” he said, later adding, “We get them together and they end up having individual contact throughout the year, group meetings, and we’re just always there to support them.”
Wirth said Special Ops Survivors is hoping to raise $50,000 from Saturday’s “Friend-Raiser,” which will be held at his home in San Juan. All the proceeds will go toward helping the widows, as well as help fund the group’s annual conference in the fall.
The price to attend the fundraiser is $250 per person or $400 for a couple. As of early last week, Wirth said about 50 people had signed up to attend, and they expected another 25 to sign up as well. During the event, the group will also auction off items such as a custom-made American flag, Los Angeles Clippers playoff game tickets, as well as concert tickets to see Carrie Underwood, Eric Church and Michael Bublé.
“I think people will find it very enjoyable but it will also be some pretty compelling content,” Wirth said.
An active-duty Navy SEAL, who asked not to be named in the story for security purposes, started the organization in 2002 following the death of a fellow SEAL. The founder wanted to raise money for the wife of the fellow SEAL who had died during combat in Afghanistan, according to Special Ops Survivors. The group was first called “Fog Friends” and focused primarily on helping widows of fallen Navy SEALs.
The organization would later be called the United Warrior Survivor Foundation, expanding its purpose to also serve the widows of all special operations personnel. In 2012, the group was again renamed to Special Ops Survivors.
According to Wirth, the founder believed the government and military weren’t doing enough to support the widows of Navy SEALs and other special operations soldiers.
To find more information about the group and how to register for the event, visit specialopssurvivors.org. Those who can’t attend but still want to donate to the group can do so through the group’s website.