Sharon Weber watches Zach Stephens, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation special events coordinator, help launch a lantern in memory of Weber's son, Staff Sgt. Ryan Deming, who died in 2018, during the Survivor Outreach Services lantern launch Oct. 23 at Merritt Lake. Supportive community members and families of fallen service members gathered to decorate lanterns with photos and messages in memory of their fallen loved ones and then launched the lit lanterns onto the water at sunset. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Charlotte Richter | Staff Writer

Following a social at the commanding general’s home, families of fallen soldiers launched lanterns in memory of their loved ones with command staff leaders and other community
members Oct. 22 at Merritt Lake.

Army Community Service’s Survivor Outreach Services hosts the social and lantern launch annually as part of a remembrance event that previously coincided with Oktoberfest.

Zach Stephens, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation special events coordinator, launches a lantern in memory of fallen service members during the Survivor Outreach Services lantern launch Oct. 23 at Merritt Lake. Supportive community members and families of fallen service members gathered to decorate lanterns with photos and messages in memory of their fallen loved ones and then launched the lit lanterns onto the water at sunset. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

The event was canceled last year due to Covid-19 restrictions but returned in line with post guidelines given its significance to SOS and surviving families. SOS Coordinator Jennifer Douglas said while the event allows surviving family members a space to reflect and remember, they can also meet members of the command staff and get together to share stories.


“They (family members) become like family, so it’s a chance to talk about past events, talk about what they’ve been up to since they last saw each other, so it’s not always just the sad moments,” Douglas said.

A lantern launched in memory of fallen service members floats across Merritt Lake during the Survivor Outreach Services lantern launch Oct. 23. Supportive community members and families of fallen service members gathered to decorate lanterns with photos and messages in memory of their lost loved ones and then launched the lit lanterns onto the water at sunset. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

ACS, SOS, and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation provided refreshments, support and materials to build the lanterns during the social. Family members also brought photos and personal items to decorate their lanterns.


Sharon Weber first participated in the SOS Lantern Launch in 2019 to remember her son, Staff Sgt. Ryan Deming, who died in May 2018. Weber chose to decorate
her lantern for her son using pictures of him as he grew up.

“I don’t want to just think of the Army Ryan, I need to remember that he was also a little kid and just a silly guy,” Weber said. “Somehow when it goes out on the lake, all of him is going,” Weber said. “So it’s the kid and the soldier. It’s kind of like I’m letting him
float. I’m not letting him drift away, I’m not letting him leave. I’m just letting him float.”

At dusk, surviving families launched their lanterns onto the water and took a quiet moment for themselves. A dozen lanterns in total floated across the water of Merritt Lake.


Weber said she has attended other SOS events outside of the lantern launch. She said the events help family members meet others.


“Sometimes it helps me to help somebody else. It helps all of us help each other.”

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