Story and photos by Geoffrey Roper
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors held a grief support seminar at the Elkhorn Conference Center April 10, offering Families of fallen Soldiers a chance to come together for peer support and coping skills meant to help them deal with their loss.
TAPS is a national organization providing compassionate care for Families of America’s fallen military. Bonnie Carroll, TAPS chairman and founder, created the organization following the death of her husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, in an Army C-12 plane crash in 1992.
There are now more than 25,000 members nationwide, and as Carroll said, sadly that number continues to grow every year.
“We’re here because we’re grieving their loss, but we’re here because they lived extraordinary lives. These were Soldiers and Marines, Sailors and Airmen, who had stepped forward to serve this country, and today we remember their lives and honor their loss,” said Carroll.
Grief seminars and peer support groups at the event centered on adults, while children attended good grief camp. For many, this was a chance to come together with others like themselves, seeing they were not alone in their sense of loss.
“Unless you are part of our TAPS family, unless you are somebody who has lost somebody … there’s no one word or one phrase that can describe that,” said Daisy Tucker, sister of Spc. Ronald Tucker, killed nearly two years ago in Iraq. “To be here today to share that with other people is something that definitely helps.”
Tucker’s mother, Susan Arnold, says she is normally reserved with her feelings in front of others, but TAPS allows her to be more open since she feels a sense of camaraderie with other members.
“It’s comforting; you know it’s coming up. It’s your time that you can just let your guard down and let that grief out, and share experiences that those who haven’t experienced what we have probably don’t understand,” she said.
The loss of a loved one can be tough on most people, but losing a sister, a brother, a mother or father, or even a child to war, can make that loss even tougher to handle.
“It’s the most profound, devastating loss a parent can have,” said Arnold. “It’s just something you never think will happen. But we’re extremely proud … he died a hero; he served his country and we’re so proud of him.
TAPS works to help survivors by letting people come together to share similar stories, find strength in friendship, and just help each other by being there for emotional support.
In the afternoon, the children wrote personal messages to those they lost, and then tied them to balloons. They were then led outside where they released the balloons into the sky, as a symbolic way of getting their messages to the fallen.
Later, adults had the chance to release their own balloon messages.
“This is America’s family of those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, and it’s that coming together, to lean on each other and find support and comfort, and that compassion that only we can offer each other,” said Carroll.
TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, seminars, casework assistance, and 24/7 crisis intervention care for all who have been affected by a death of a loved one in the armed forces. Services are provided free of charge. For more information go to http://www.taps.org or call the crisis line at 800-959-TAPS.