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These Surrogate Grandparents Serve to Remember the Fallen

A group photo of GI Grannies and Gramps for Soldier Support volunteers with founder Chaplain Dell Harlow-Curtis. (Courtesy of GI Grannies and Gramps for Soldier Support)
A group photo of GI Grannies and Gramps for Soldier Support volunteers with founder Chaplain Dell Harlow-Curtis. (Courtesy of GI Grannies and Gramps for Soldier Support)

For a group of volunteers at Fort Carson's Wounded Warrior battalion, feeding soldiers and their families lunch while passing out hugs is not just about giving a helping hand -- it's about honor.

That's because about half of the dozen or so volunteers who make up G.I. Grannies and Gramps for Soldier Support are also families of fallen troops.

Founded in 2011, G.I. Grannies and Gramps provides troops and their families in the unit with the little but meaningful things in life, such as birthday cakes, regular lunches and, yes, hugs, said Terry Chapman, one of the volunteers.

"We try to be there to support the soldiers and their families and celebrate the good things," she said. "Any of the events they have there, we help out, just to give them a grandparent. ... We give out a lot of hugs."

Chapman has been a volunteer since 2012. Her son, Air Force Tech Sgt. John A. Chapman, was killed in action in 2002 and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor this year by President Donald Trump.

Chapman learned about the organization through her local American Gold Star Mothers chapter, as did several of the other volunteers, she said. "We do it to honor our kids. The war has dragged on so long, and most people are blasé about the whole thing. They don't pay attention. It's nice to be there for [the soldiers'] support."

When the group first started serving the unit, the soldiers didn't know what to expect. But now they look at them like family.

"In the beginning, they were reluctant for the hugs, but now they expect the hugs," Chapman said.

Most of the volunteers really are grandparents, she said, but that isn't required. The group has no membership fees and no minimum requirement on hours. Volunteers don't even need to have a military connection. They just need a desire to help.

Live in the Fort Carson area? You can get involved by connecting with the group on Facebook.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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