Contact: Marilyn Peterson
Phone 1-888-408-6824

June 24, 2004 -- PLANO, Texas -- When a member of the armed services dies, family members mourn the loss in a private way. To help them through the trauma, a Plano, Texas, woman has launched a free service that identifies a trained individual in their community to be available for an hour a week to listen supportively.

Ten years ago, when her own husband died of complications from Agent Orange exposure, Marilyn Peterson wanted to talk candidly and confidentially to a caring individual as she experienced the anger, fear and sadness that accompany grief.

"Family and friends offer comfort and solace, but sorrow is exhausting to them and to the bereaved," said Ms. Peterson. "A compassionate but neutral listener helps relieve some of the emotional burden so you can move forward."

During training to be a Stephen Minister in her church, Ms. Peterson learned to be a compassionate listener to those in her congregation who seek help. She realized that this service would be valuable to military family members, as well.

Operation Stephen's Touch, launched in May 2004, connects a Stephen Minister to a parent, spouse, adult child or sibling, grieving the loss of a military family member who died in the line of duty. If none is available nearby, listeners will be arranged by telephone.

About 8,000 churches representing more than 100 denominations in the states, Canada and abroad use Stephen Ministers. Since 1975, when teaching began in St. Louis, more than 300,000 laypersons have been trained as Stephen Ministers, providing one-to-one help to those in their community who are grieving or in other crises.

For more information, contact Operation Stephen's Touch through email at or visit or call toll-free 1-888-40-TOUCH (408-6824).