Military News

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Pregnancy, infant loss group offers support to grieving families

by Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs


6/2/2015 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- When Brooke El-Attrache and her husband, 1st Lt. Ethan El-Attrache, 31st Logistics Readiness Squadron, arrived at Aviano Air Base, Italy, in 2014, she noticed something was missing.

In late 2013, her older sister, Bridgett, experienced the tragic loss of her stillborn son, Mason.

"She was 40 weeks and three days [pregnant]," El-Attrache started. "She'd gone in that day for her appointment and everything was normal. After her appointment, I took her to Olive Garden and she started going in to labor."

El-Attrache rushed her sister to the hospital.

"Nobody was worried ... until they couldn't find the heartbeat," she said with tears in her eyes. "Then the doctor came in and told us [Mason] was gone."

In addition to El-Attrache's family and friends who consoled her sister during her tragedy, several non-profit organizations helped her with funeral costs, created keepsakes; and most importantly, connected her with others who had experienced similar tragedies.

"I can't imagine anyone [at Aviano] going through that and not having their family here or the support they need," said El-Attrache.

The truth was, when she arrived here, many resources were available for those grieving the loss of their loved ones, like the Airman and Family Readiness Center, chaplains, Military and Family Life Consultants, first sergeants, key spouses, and others; but support from those who'd experienced similar loss were harder to find.

"I started meeting people on base who shared their stories with me," said El-Attrache.
"When I met Ally [Salinas], who suffered three miscarriages, I realized that the support wasn't there."

That's when she established Airborne Angels, a local, non-profit organization, focused on connecting people grieving the loss of a small or unborn child.

"When I lost Chandler it was really hard," said Salinas. "I couldn't leave the house. Here it's really easy to alienate yourself, but I had to come to my own form of healing. When I knew that support was there and that other people had similar stories, it helped me."

Today, Salinas serves as the vice president of the organization, so she can share her story to encourage others and continue healing.

"Talking about this is very hard and some people need to talk about it in their own time," admits Salinas. "We want to be there to let people know support is there and so others know where they can come to offer support."

The group now boasts 44 members and recently held their second major event.

"We hosted a balloon release event, mid-way between Mother's and Father's day, to honor our loved ones," El-Attrache said.

The organization's first event was held Oct. 15, 2014, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. The event, a local International Wave of Light, helped honor the memories of lost infant and unborn loved ones.

Brooke wants everyone to understand that the group isn't simply for the grieving mother, but everyone in the family who mourns over the loss of their son, brother, nephew, cousin, friend, etc.

"We want people to bring their families," El-Attrache said. "Loss isn't something anyone should experience alone."

If you're grieving the loss of a loved one or think you can offer support to someone who is, call 345-425-0032, 342-198-7781, email airbornangels@gmail.com

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