- Posted October 8, 2010 by
Fort Huachuca, Arizona
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Salute to troops
Support coordinator assists families of fallen Soldiers
Sgt. Michael Torres, left, Valencia Armory, explains the changes made to the Up-Armored Humvees to Natale Salvatore Cataudella, since his son, Sgt. Sean Cataudella's death in 2003. Cataudella was able to learn about the Humvees through the assistance of Fort Huachuca's Survivor Outreach Services program.
By Amy Sunseri
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- Since 2003, Natale Salvatore Cataudella of Tucson has been looking for closure. His son, Sgt. Sean Cataudella, died August 30, 2003 in Balad, Iraq when the up-armored humvee he was driving hit an embankment and rolled into a canal. Cataudella was able to save the gunner, but drowned as a result of the accident. He posthumously received the Bronze Star for his actions, but Cataudella said no medal would ever replace his son.
When Sgt. Cataudella returned to the United States he was not viewable, so his family never received any closure, until now.
In 2009, the Army developed through Army Community Service, Survivor Outreach Services. The program assists survivors with any issues or concerns they may have involving a loss of a loved one.
Since the program started in 2009, SOS support coordinator, Alma Estrada, called all the survivors in her database dating back to 1990. She gave them an official condolence through the garrison commander and then asked if they needed any assistance.
Cataudella told Estrada all he wanted to do was view an up-armored humvee like the one his son had passed away in. With the help of the National Guard unit in Phoenix, they were able to set up a viewing for Cataudella at the Valencia Armory in Tucson.
“Mr. Cataudella, Sean’s father, was able to meet me there and actually step into the armored humvee and experience some of the things that his son had experienced while he was deployed,” said Estrada.
While at the Armory, Cataudella was briefed on the up-armored humvees. He was shown how the humvees have evolved since his son’s passing.
“Sitting in that driver’s seat I was impressed with the lack of space, even without the entire ‘battle rattle.’ My respect for those of you who drive these beasts has gone up exponentially. I was better able to understand the difficulty his rescuers had in extracting my son from the vehicle,” Cataudella explained in a letter he wrote to Estrada.
The Soldiers assisting Cataudella during his visit also explained to him the significance of the Bronze Star medal. They helped Cataudella to realize that his son’s heroic act should not be diminished by his sacrifice.
Before Cataudella left the Armory, Sgt. Michael Torres gave him his Combat Infantry Badge and told Cataudella, “This is for Sean.”
“See Sergeant Cataudella was a Cavalry Scout and not eligible for a combat badge even though he had served in Kosovo, Hertzigovenia, and died serving in Iraq. To receive recognition from superior NCOs (non-commissioned officers) and officers is one thing, to be honored by an equal, a buddy is so much more,” added Cataudella.
“It was really touching, really satisfying, for me to be able to do that for him,” Estrada said.
From January 1990 to September 2010, Estrada says there are 1,101 survivors located in her area of responsibility; 587 families from Maricopa County and 86 families in Cochise County.
Estrada believes the SOS program will continue to grow. Unfortunately, there are a lot of survivors and families she says that need their assistance.
“We plan to be there for our survivors for as long as they need us to be there,” added Estrada.
There is a survivor’s outreach group that meets once a month on Fort Huachuca and in Pima County.
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