By Master Sergeant Billy G. Arnold, Jr., U.S. Army INSCOM Senior Chaplain Assistant April 29, 2013
I first heard about the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) through a fellow NCO back in 2011. They were looking for active duty service members to be mentors for the National Seminar Good Grief Camp over Memorial Day weekend. After going to the TAPS website and reading their mission statement, I said to myself "I have to do this."
With two deployments to Iraq as a 4th Infantry Division Chaplain's Assistant, I have seen my share of fellow Soldiers Killed in Action (KIA)-- over 300 - and a number of suicides. My chaplain and I responded to many incidents where a Soldier's life was lost. We attended well over 200 Memorial Service/Ceremonies in Iraq and visited our wounded service members at the Combat Hospitals. So, when this opportunity came to become a mentor for the young children of fallen service members, I had to do this. Giving back to the families was my number one priority I have always enjoyed working with young children and this was a great opportunity.
At my first National Seminar Good Grief Camp, I was one of the mentors for the 7 to 8 year-olds group. At the end we held a candlelit ceremony where children and mentors spoke the names of who they were remembering. When it was my turn, I started to choke up and cry. What amazed me the most was my mentee came over and put his little arm around me. Though I started with the idea of giving back to the children of our fallen service members, I quickly learned that the children were also giving back to me. Their tenacity and energy helped me with my grieving process. From then on, I vowed to do whatever I could for TAPS.
I've been part of TAPS for over two years now and have had the honor and privilege to be a mentor for the National Seminar Good Grief Camps, Campouts, and Honor Gala. I have also had the opportunity to meet and talk to several of the families whose loved ones died during deployments that my chaplain and I had been on. I realized that if my life was lost, I would want someone to do this for my family as well - to give them the chance to have that continued connection with me and to grieve in the presence of active duty members who understand that loss.
For service members who want to give back to the families of the fallen, I recommend the TAPS organization. They are an excellent organization that takes care of the families of the fallen. In twenty years of military service, I have volunteered for many organizations, but TAPS is number one on my list.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is a 24/7 tragedy assistance resource for anyone who has suffered the loss of a military loved one, regardless of the relationship to the deceased or the circumstance of the death. TAPS' National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief camp has been held annually since 1994. TAPS also conducts regional Survivor Seminars and Good Grief Camps at locations across the country.
Founded out of tragedy in 1994, TAPS has established itself as the front line resource to 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.
TAPS is a not-for-profit organization and is not part of, or endorsed by, the Department of Defense. For more information on TAPS, go to http://www.taps.org/about/