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Many Americans know the familiar rituals that accompany a military funeral - a eulogy is spoken, taps is played, the flag is folded, and three rifle volleys are fired.
Many of these images flash on television on Memorial Day, and we see solemn ceremonies where families honor their loved ones who died, alongside stoic veterans who have seen the horrors of war.
Many pay tribute to our fallen on Memorial Day. But for the families of the fallen, the death of a loved one in service to country is something they must carry year round.
For the family that has experienced the devastating death of a loved one in service to our country, the impact is long-term and deeply felt. Experts tell us it can take 5-7 years for people to reach their “new normal” following a traumatic death of a close loved one.
For every death in the military, there are at least ten people profoundly affected. They are spouses and fiancés, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins and step-relations of all varieties. In an instant, their lives are altered forever, stitched into a national fabric of sacrifice and honor, in a way they never imagined.
No Family of our Fallen Military Has to Grieve Alone
Founded in 1994 by surviving military families who lost their loved ones in a National Guard plane crash, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) has given comfort and care to more than 30,000 people. TAPS offers help and support regardless of the geography or circumstance of the death, or the relationship to the deceased.
Our peer-based emotional support programs help a father connect with another bereaved dad who understands his lonely nights. When a mother opens the trunks containing her son’s belongings and calls our 24-7 resource and information helpline, we put another mother on the phone to offer support. Our seminars for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, quarterly magazine and survivor care kits offer help and support to thousands.
This Memorial Day Weekend, a record-breaking 1,300 survivors of our fallen military will gather near Washington, D.C. to participate in the 17th Annual National TAPS Military Survivor Seminar & Good Grief Camp. Nearly 500 children will attend the Good Grief Camp, where they will learn coping skills, meet other children with similar experiences, and be paired up with a mentor trained in how to support them.
Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is among several organizations helping TAPS families this weekend. These young veterans will be serving as mentors at the TAPS Good Grief Camp companioning children and teens, packing lunches for survivors, and assisting families attending the national Memorial Day observances at Arlington National Cemetery.
You might think that war-hardened veterans would find it difficult to be around the families of the fallen. Our faces echo their fallen comrades, and our lives will be forever altered by tragedy. But what they also see in us – even at the times when we are broken - is strength, resiliency and hope. In many ways, we help these young veterans, and they help us.
A Tribute to Memorial Day: How You Can Help Our families are the “living memorials” to our fallen heroes. We honor those who have given so much for our country, by caring for those they leave behind. Memorial Day is very much about the simple phrase that is our watchword: Remember the love, celebrate the life, and share the journey.
One of the easiest ways to help is to go to www.GiveAThousandThanks.org, where you can write a thank you note or post a thank you photo or video to the families of our fallen military. You can learn more about TAPS at www.taps.org and volunteer to help.
Guest blogger Bonnie Carroll founded TAPS in 1994 in Alaska alongside other bereaved military families, following the death of her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll. We remember this Memorial Day, his service and sacrifice for his country, and salute all of the families of the fallen. They are the quiet heroes who walk among us.
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