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Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)

This year's Memorial Day allows us to remember our fallen soldiers and reflect on the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which was established to provide ongoing peer-based emotional support to anyone who is grieving the death of a loved one who served in the Armed Forces.

Memorial Day is quickly approaching, and for most of us this a time of reflection. I have the honor to work with our amazing military, veterans, and their loved ones every day.  Our nation takes a deep breath every year, to remember those brave service men and women who have given their lives in defense of our Nation.  Since 9/11 thousands have died fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Enduring Freedom.  Many of our fallen are still unaccounted across generations of war, for some their passing is defined by a place and time in history.  For the friends, families, and loved ones of these men and women, Memorial Day is a moment of remembrance. One incredible group is a beacon to families, children and loved ones of our lost heroes.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) was established to provide ongoing peer-based emotional support to anyone who is grieving the death of a loved one who served in the Armed Forces.  TAPS was founded in 1994 by Bonnie Carroll two years after she lost her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll and 7 soldiers in a C-12 crash in Alaska.  This is a community of Survivors who are brought together to share comfort, healing, and hope.  TAPS consists of peer mentoring network, online live chat program, and online confidential support groups.  There are also TAPS grief seminars for adults and TAPS Good Grief Camps for children. 

TAPS will be hosting the 19th Annual National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors this weekend here in Washington D.C.  These events, specifically the camps for children, are extremely helpful in breaking the isolation they feel when losing a parent or loved one.  Children grieve very deeply, but this can be hard to recognize because they do not sustain strong emotions like adults do.  Typically children turn to avoidance, focusing on play or schoolwork.  The Good Grief Camps allow children to connect to other kids who share similar experiences and help to address some of the hidden emotions they feel.

Over the years TAPS has worked with more than 40,000 surviving family members, casualty assistance officers, chaplains, and others who are supporting bereaved military families.  Since 9/11 alone, TAPS has helped more than 27,000 people.  Along with peer-based support, TAPS also provides grief and trauma resources, survivor resource guides, a quarterly TAPS magazine, casework assistance to help families resolve difficult issues, connect families to local counseling and support groups, and offer a 24/7 helpline.

For every active duty military loss there are on average 10 people significantly impacted by their death.  This includes mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, fiancés, battle buddies, and other family friends and relatives.  Experts claim it takes on average 5-7 years for people who have experienced the death of a loved one to reach their “new normal” making long term support and care very important for Survivors. 

In 2012, TAPS took in 4,807 new Survivors who were grieving the death of a service member or recent veteran.  On average TAPS will intake 13 new people per day, this is a 46% increase since 2011.  TAPS does not limit support just to Survivors whose loved ones were killed in combat; they support family and friends of Service members who died from suicide as well.  There are more than 3,000 suicide Survivors currently connected to TAPS.  To ensure support and contact, TAPS will make on average 162 phone calls per day to military survivors and in a single year TAPS has 32 contacts with each Survivor.

TAPS has demonstrated the success of connecting people to each other to help heal and bring hope in spite of tragedy.  On this Memorial Day, remember the ultimate sacrifice service men and women have given our Nation.  Share the stories of these incredible individuals and support the friends and family who carry on without them here.    

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Rosye B. Cloud is the Director for Veterans, Wounded Warriors & Military Families, NSS