By Staff Sgt. Matthew Coleman-Foster
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Fifteen Airmen from Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, mentored military children of fallen service members during the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivor’s mountain state regional military survivor seminar, Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 2, 2019.
TAPS provides comfort and hope through peer support networks and connecting the bereaved to grief resources such as Good Grief Camps at no cost to the family of the fallen. Since 1994, TAPS has assisted more than 85,000 surviving families, casualty officers and caregivers.
During the seminar, mentors participated in games, arts and crafts and other activities with the children.
“Participating in the TAPS Good Grief Camp was unlike any volunteering opportunity I’ve done,” said Staff Sgt. Skyler Wages, 21st Dental Squadron preventive dentistry technician. “We spent the weekend doing awesome activities and connecting with amazing kids. It’s a toss-up who had more fun this weekend — me or the kids who came.”
Captain Kaoru Elliott, 2nd Space Operations Squadron modernization flight commander, said volunteering at TAPS presents different experiences.
“Some events, the mentee may not participate at all — they are at a different point in their grief journey. It can be disheartening to think you aren’t forming a bond with your mentee,” he said. “I’ve had events I felt as though I didn’t do enough. At a later event, this mentee I thought I had made no impact on came up to me excitedly and started talking to me like we were the best of friends. You never know when just being there for someone is what is needed.
“We always hear its tough being the family member of a military member — but what happens when the families lose that military link?” he continued. “These families have gone through a lot and now the children not only have to navigate life, which can already be hard, but do it without a crucial person that could have helped guide them through. “
Elliot said despite the adversity, the children demonstrate their strength and resilience.
“Even though we are there to help them, they end up helping the volunteers as well,” he said. “Volunteering at TAPS can be heartbreaking, but then it mends your heart again with the hope and strength.”
The National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp, held annually in Washington, D.C., during Memorial Day weekend, is supplemented with regional survivor seminars for adults and youth programs throughout the country and around the world.
Captain Nathaniel Lee, 527th Space Aggressor Squadron weapons and tactics assistant flight commander, said the military mentors form the backbone of the program.
“At the kids’ good grief camps, each child survivor is paired one-on-one with a currently serving, veteran or retired service member to be their companion for the weekend, and that pairing is the core of everything we do for the kids,” he said. “The impact volunteers can have on these kids’ lives is immeasurable, and I am so honored to be able to have my small part in that effort and experience.”
TAPS is always looking for service members and recent veterans to support their mission nationwide. To learn more about becoming a TAPS Military Mentor, visit www.taps.org/militarymentor.
TAPS will hold a Mentor Meet Up at WhirlyBall, 3971 Palmer Park Blvd., Colorado Springs, 2 p.m., April 27. It is an opportunity for service members to get connected to other TAPS Military Mentors and learn more about the program. To register or learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.