Children of the fallen honored during Good Grief Camp
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- A child attending the Fort Bragg United Services Organization and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Good Grief Camp creates a picture frame in remembrance of his lost loved one, Aug. 5 at Camp Dixie in Fayetteville. This ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Children of the fallen honored during Good Grief Camp
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Children attending the Fort Bragg United Services Organization and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Good Grief Camp sign each other's shirts during craft time, Aug. 5 at Camp Dixie in Fayetteville. This three day, two ni... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Children of the fallen honored during Good Grief Camp
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- A child and their military mentor attending the Fort Bragg United Services Organization and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Good Grief Camp create friendship bracelets during craft time, Aug. 5 at Camp Dixie in Fayettev... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Children splashed in the pool, raced go-karts down a track, told stories of their lost loved ones in front of a camp fire, and some shed tears during a grief camp, Aug. 4-6 at Camp Dixie in Fayetteville.

Children grieving the loss of a parent or sibling in the Armed Forces attended the Fort Bragg United Services Organization (USO) and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) Good Grief Camp. This three day, two night camp experience for children six to 17 years of age, was filled with fun camp activities, as well as grief education and emotional support.

"After 20 years in the field, it is my belief that bereavement camps are the single most effective way we can support groups of grieving children," said Dr. Tina Barrett, director, EdD, LCPC, TAPS Good Grief Camp. "The TAPS Good Grief Camp out brings children together for all the joy and adventure of traditional summer camps while offering opportunities to honor loved ones and learn coping skills with understanding others."

The TAPS program was founded by Bonnie Carroll in 1994, following the death of her husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll in an Army C-12 plane crash in 1992. The national Veterans Service Organization provides peer based emotional support, grief and trauma resources and information, casualty casework assistance and crisis intervention for all those affected by the death of a loved one serving in, or in support of, the armed forces.

"When a Servicemember dies, their surviving family members often leave established homes, support systems, and friends, and return to a civilian world that does not always know how to support them in their grief," said Diana Wright, youth program coordinator, TAPS.

TAPS Good Grief Camps offer children the comfort in knowing that there are other children who have experienced a similar loss and understand what they are feeling. Through the grief support and activities, the children have an opportunity to memorialize their loved one. They also develop friendships and support systems that last long after they return home from camp.

"Grief is a personal journey and no two people will grieve in the same way. The Good Grief Camps provide a safe environment where children of all ages are provided the opportunity to work through their grief with other children who understand what it's like to lose a loved one," said Wright.

The children are not the only ones to benefit from the activities led by experienced and trained grief facilitators. Each child was matched with a trained military mentor who also experienced a loss, many from Fort Bragg, and some who traveled from other bases.

"Although 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," said Ret. Army Master Sgt. Bill Arnold, five-year volunteer, TAPS. "Their tenacity and their energy helped me with my grieving process."

In addition to the grief work each group participated in, the children were given the opportunity to choose from a long list of fun, camp-themed activities. One activity, that was favored by most of the campers was jumping onto "The Blob" and launching their buddies into the lake. Another activity the children enjoyed was racing their friends and mentors on the go-kart track. Other activities included, crafts, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, water slide and pool time.

Although the camp was short, the children and mentors both gained something from their experience that will be with them for a lifetime.

"For many survivors and mentors, TAPS can be a life-changing experience. My life has been changed as a result of my experiences with TAPS, and although I have willingly volunteered, I always feel like I receive more than I give," said Wright.

TAPS also provides 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.

If you or someone you know is suffering the loss of a military loved one, please call the toll-free help and information line: 1-800-959-TAPS (8277).