A first-time Virtual Butterfly Release and Walking Memorial Tribute at Fort Lee is scheduled for May 21-26 (times to be announced).
“Social distancing is prohibiting us from conducting many of the formal events at which we would ordinarily mark the milestones of our lives,” elaborated Angela Bellamy, ACS Survivor Outreach Services program manager. “Our agency wants the community to know that, while we’re unable to gather in a large group for the 10th annual SOS Butterfly Release, it does not mean the sacrifice of fallen service members has been forgotten during this Memorial Day period.”
Bellamy continued, “Consequently, SOS has partnered with others on the Family and MWR team to come up with a way to uphold the annual tradition using virtual tools so we can still recognize this important time for our community.”
Some event details are still being finalized including the Butterfly Release start time on May 21, according to Bellamy. This information and more will be shared on social media and via emails with Gold Star Families and friends soon. Updates and the event broadcast will be posted to www.facebook.com/Survivor-Outreach-Services.
The virtual program will include Gold Star father Lawrence G. Sprader Sr. speaking about his fallen son Sgt. Lawrence G. Sprader Jr. The 24-year-old lost his life during a training exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2007. The Soldier graduated from Prince George High School in 2000, joining the Army several days afterward. He served two combat tours in Iraq, garnering numerous awards including the Army Commendation, Army Achievement and Global War on Terrorism medals, as well as the Combat Lifesaver and First Class Driver’s badges.
“Following Mr. Sprader’s talk, we will ask our Gold Star Families and community members to download butterfly templates that we are providing in advance,” Bellamy said. “They can decorate them, write the name of their fallen family member on the template and then display it in their windows. We also want them to post their butterfly on our Facebook page.”
The butterfly templates and additional information is available at lee.armymwr.com/promos/virtual-butterfly-release-and-walking-memorial-tribute.
“To further support the event,” Bellamy continued, “we will have hundreds of photo memorials of our fallen displayed along an approximate 3-mile loop on the installation, and encourage community members to travel along the route to honor them. That, in addition to the butterfly drawings that we hope to see displayed in home windows should make for a very touching tribute that can be enjoyed by community members out on walks or doing business on post. It’s something totally different from what we’ve done before, and the hope is for great participation by every community member.”
The circular photo tribute route passes the ACS building on Mahone Avenue, turning left onto C Avenue, then left onto Sisisky Boulevard and continuing to Battle Drive, which connects back to Mahone. A strip map is available on the lee.armymwr website.
Registration is not needed for the virtual event. Community members are encouraged to share details with others to encourage max participation.
Bellamy emphasized the continued importance of supporting Gold Star Families at this time. “The SOS team is here to support them during the pandemic,” she noted. “While we are teleworking, we have given families our contact information and are reaching out to them to provide updates and helpful information via email, phone calls and the SOS Facebook page. Our special virtual butterfly release tribute gives all of us the opportunity to honor those who fell during service to their country while showing support of the families who’ve lost a loved one.”