Memorial Day is a very poignant and somber reminder for all Americans of the lives that have been lost in service to our Nation. This Memorial Day weekend, as the new Executive Director of Joining Forces, I have the deep honor of attending and supporting the 20th Annual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors. These events, held in and around Washington DC, will have 4,000 participants this year -- more than 500 children. As a service member, and past participant in the Good Grief Camp, this weekend is especially meaningful. The loss and the grief for many is still fresh and for mentors and other volunteers -- the work is very personal. So too, is the national commitment to honoring the fallen and assisting their families -- thanks to organizations like TAPS.
TAPS was founded in 1994, and has since established itself as a resource for the families and loved ones of our military men and women. TAPS provides comfort and care through comprehensive services and programs including peer-based emotional support, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, and grief and trauma resources. A formal partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and TAPS is working to increase access to VA benefits for all survivors -- especially children.
This weekend, survivors will hear from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, participate in a fitness session on the National Mall with the Washington Redskins, and spend time with each other and peer mentors. During the President's remarks at Arlington Cemetery on Monday, the First Lady and Dr. Biden will be seated with children who are participating in the Good Grief Camp. These activities will promote healing, and encourage friendships among the children and adults who have been impacted by the loss of a service member.
As we enjoy the long weekend, let’s pause to honor those who have given their all in service of our Nation. Let’s remember the families and loved ones of our fallen; and honor our sacred duty to those who remain.
Colonel Steve Parker is Executive Director of Joining Forces.