Society of Military Widows provides comfort

Giovanna Morris, (left) and Barbara Jay, members of the Fort Meade chapter of the Society of Military Widows, provide a wreath to be placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery last Veterans Day. (Photo Courtesy of Ursula Wilder)

Erna Crosby was married for 63 years to her husband, a former command sergeant major at Fort Meade, when he died in October.

She is now the newest member of Fort Meade’s chapter of the Society of Military Widows.

“I come to just meet people who are in the same situation,” said Crosby, who is planning to move to a senior residential community in Columbia. “They can understand your problems because they’ve been through what you’re going through.”

The Society of Military Widows meets the third Tuesday of the month at 11 a.m. at Club Meade for lunch.

The national chapter of the Society of Military Widows was founded in 1968 by Theresa Alexander to serve the interests of women whose husbands died on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or during retirement from the armed forces.

A nonprofit organization, the society benefits the widows of members of all branches of the U.S. military.

A Club Of Their Own

According to the organization’s website, its purpose is to “give moral support, advice, referral service, and, in general, help the widows of career military members to cope with their losses and transition to civilian life.”

Betty Jones, president of the Fort Meade chapter for more than five years, said she joined so she could learn what was happening in the military regarding the benefits to widows and to find companionship.

“We want the Fort Meade military community to know that we exist,” said Jones, the widow of a Navy service member. “We’re here, ready to support anyone we can.”

The society currently has 10 active members and devotes its energy to staying abreast of military widow benefits, legislation from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and local, state and federal laws that impact members’ medical and financial well-being.

Members also share information about affordable housing options.

Giovanna Morris has been a member and a widow for eight years. She was married to her husband, a retired master sergeant, for 49 years.

“I was very lonely and I wanted to be part of a group,” Morris said. “It helps you to cope with the loneliness, talk about different problems and be part of something for yourself.”

Some members said that being a military widow is to be a member of an exclusive club.

“After the casualty officer and caseworker have gone home and the paperwork is finished, how do you get through the lonely hours? As a military survivor, you very often face problems your civilian counterpart does not,” according to the national organization’s website.

“The death of your spouse may be followed by a change in residence and separation from the network of support you have come to expect in the armed forces.”

Giving Back To Others

Evelyn Silva, the widow of a retired command sergeant major who died 30 years ago, said when a military spouse dies, the surviving spouse may not know how to go about arranging the funeral or taking care of finances.

Simple things, like running a home and taking care of children, can be daunting.

“I feel they don’t get it,” Silva said of the civilian population. “I enjoy the camaraderie here — people like me who understand where we are and where we’ve been.”

Part of the mission of the Fort Meade chapter is to support service members and their families, including those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Every Memorial Day and Veterans Day, club members place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

They also make an annual donation to the Fisher House Foundation, which provides military families with housing that is close to a military loved one who is hospitalized due to illness or injury.

Estelle Glasgow, a widow of a retired staff judge advocate, has been a member for a little more than two years.

“This is sort of like my comfort zone,” Glasgow said. “You have a sounding board and someone you can call when you need help.”

For more information, call Betty Jones, president, at 410-992-1123.

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