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Zoo to host Gold Star Spouses and their families

Event honoring sacrifice and strength

The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium’s impressive Shark Tank is just one of the many exhibits that will be open for Gold Star Spouses’ and their families to enjoy. Photo credit: Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

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Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium will be hosting the Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) Gold Star Spouses' Day Recognition Event, 10 a.m. until noon, Saturday, April 14. Put on by the JBLM branch of Washington Survivor Outreach and Survivor Outreach Services in partnership with Sarah Vargo, the Survivor Outreach Services coordinator for Camp Murray, the event will honor and recognize the sacrifice and strength of Gold Star families while remembering their fallen loved ones.

"During this time, activities, resources and food will be provided," says Rochelle Hicklin, Survivor Outreach Service Coordinator for JBLM. Admission is free for all Gold Star Spouses, children, parents and siblings. Other family members and friends are encouraged to attend but will be charged the regular admission fee, which can be found at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium website.

National Gold Star Spouses' Day, which was officially celebrated April 5 of this year, began as Gold Star Wives' Day in 2010. It was recently changed to Gold Star Spouses' Day to include all those who have lost a life partner who was also an active-duty servicemember.

According to the official United States Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM) website, "Gold Star Spouses' Day is an opportunity for the U.S. Army to honor the surviving husbands and wives of fallen soldiers." IMCOM continued, "Gold Star Spouses are and always will be a part of the Army family. The Army recognizes their courage and sacrifice and is committed to supporting them while honoring the legacy of their fallen husbands and wives."

Army Survivor Outreach Services, which is an IMCOM sponsored program, "offers resources including supportive counseling, financial education, benefits coordination, and support groups to surviving family members for as long as ... (they) need or request Army involvement."

The morning will be given over to events and activities designed especially for Gold Star Spouses and their families, however, "Families are welcome and encouraged to stay and enjoy all the zoo has to offer afterwards," said Hicklin.

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium has plenty to offer, including:

  • Stingray Cove, where visitors are invited to get up close and personal with a live stingray.
  • KidZone, where kids and kids-at-heart can help feed the goats.
  • A Shark Tank, where divers can be observed hanging out with real, live sharks.
  • Special informative talks by the Elephant, Wolf and Animal keepers scheduled throughout the afternoon.
  • Maybe even a camel ride, weather permitting.

The organization of this event is overseen by JBLM Armed Forces Community Services and the Airmen and Family Readiness Center. These organizations offer more than 20 programs, including Survivor Outreach Services, geared toward assisting servicemembers, retirees, Department of Defense civilians and their families.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord Gold Star Spouses' Day Recognition Event, 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 14, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma, free admission for Gold Star Spouses, children, parents and siblings, all others regular admission, 253.967.7501,

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