The holidays were fast approaching and Ruth Nero, the Support Coordinator at Fort Bliss Survivor Outreach Services was scrambling, because the annual SOS Thanksgiving dinner could not take place this year due to COVID-19 – that’s when she received a call from the Fort Bliss Fire Department.
Fire Lt. Joe Legarreta asked Nero if she knew of any Gold Star Families who needed a little extra help with providing a Thanksgiving meal. Nero graciously accepted the offer and went to work identifying families.
Survivor Outreach Services is part of the Army Casualty Continuum of Care. It is designed to provide long-term support to surviving families of fallen Soldiers. Fort Bliss SOS supports nearly 350 families across El Paso, Texas, and parts of New Mexico.
Nero narrowed her list to the 25 families who she felt needed the help the most, and contacted them.
“Some of the calls I made, we ended up talking for an hour or more,” she said. “We had a family who shared with us that they weren’t going to have a Thanksgiving dinner because they couldn’t afford it. They said they would rather spend the money on a couple of meals than on one meal, so it was very heartwarming to help them.”
The Gold Star Families picked up the meal Nov. 23, 2020, at the Fort Bliss SOS office. On the menu: a 20-pound turkey, stuffing, cranberries, yams, rolls, a five-pound bag of potatoes, a gallon of milk, pie and whipped cream – everything for a Thanksgiving meal.
Legarreta said although the Fort Bliss Fire Department has hosted its annual turkey drive for nearly 30 years, this is the first time they have partnered with Fort Bliss SOS.
“We usually do our turkey drive out in the county for low-income families, but this year we wanted to support Fort Bliss since we are the Fort Bliss Fire Department,” he said. “We wanted to help the less fortunate – good times, bad times, that’s what we are here for – especially now. A lot of families are going through a hard time and we’re just here to help. The Fort Bliss Fire Department is a family and Thanksgiving is a family holiday. Hopefully we can continue this tradition here on Fort Bliss and it can be bigger every year.”