USA — Family Matters Blog: TAPS Program Supports Families of Fallen

WASHINGTON — I often hear sto­ries of mil­i­tary fam­i­lies help­ing each oth­er, whether it’s through deploy­ments or moves or just a tough day of par­ent­ing. Their sup­port can range from the emo­tion­al, with an offer of a shoul­der to cry on, to the more prac­ti­cal, such as help with a bro­ken-down car or wash­ing machine. These sto­ries are touch­ing and thank­ful­ly very com­mon with­in mil­i­tary culture. 

While each instance is impres­sive, some­times this sup­port is tak­en to an even greater lev­el. I recent­ly learned about a pro­gram, run by the Tragedy Assis­tance Pro­gram for Sur­vivors, that offers mil­i­tary fam­i­lies sup­port dur­ing one of their great­est times of need: after the loss of a loved one. The TAPS Peer Men­tor Pro­gram pairs sur­vivors who are fur­ther along in their jour­ney of recov­ery with those who are expe­ri­enc­ing a more recent loss. 

“It’s some­one say­ing, ‘My sto­ry is qui­eter now, and I want to help oth­ers along with the process,’ ” Deb­bie Dey, the men­tor pro­gram man­ag­er, told me in a recent inter­view. Men­tors offer every­thing from a shoul­der to cry on to con­nec­tions to help­ing resources, she told me. 

The goal is to match peo­ple based on rela­tion­ship first, fol­lowed by cir­cum­stances of death and branch of ser­vice. So, a moth­er of a sol­dier who was killed by a road­side bomb in Afghanistan will be paired, if pos­si­ble, with anoth­er moth­er whose sol­dier son died in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances, she explained. 

The sim­i­lar­i­ties help to cre­ate com­mon bonds, Dey said. “Sur­vivors are so grate­ful to have an ear from some­one who under­stands their loss,” she added. 

In turn, the men­tors often gain as much from the rela­tion­ship as the per­son being men­tored. “It’s very ther­a­peu­tic on both sides,” Dey said. “And it can offer a step­ping stone for both rela­tion­ships. Their cir­cum­stances may be dif­fer­ent, their rela­tion­ship with a loved one may be dif­fer­ent, but they’re offer­ing each oth­er hope for the future.” 

I spoke with Mea­gan Staats, one of the TAPS men­tors, to gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the pro­gram, and walked away with a greater appre­ci­a­tion of the mean­ing of sacrifice. 

On Dec. 16, 2006, two sol­diers came to Staats’ home to noti­fy her of her husband’s death. Her hus­band, Army Staff Sgt. David Staats, had been killed by a road­side bomb in Iraq. The dev­as­ta­tion was imme­di­ate and life-alter­ing, she said. 

“My stom­ach still hurts when I see sol­diers in Class As,” she said, refer­ring to the dress uni­forms the noti­fi­ca­tion team mem­bers were wearing. 

Staats’ thoughts were on her daugh­ter, whom she had dropped off at a birth­day par­ty a few hours ear­li­er, and how she was going to tell the 7‑year-old that her father was now dead. When her daugh­ter arrived home, Staats told her that her father had died in Iraq. Her daugh­ter went into her room and screamed into a pil­low. “I felt so hope­less,” she said. “It was traumatic.” 

Staats avoid­ed coun­sel­ing, and she and her daugh­ter strug­gled with the weight of the loss. Hav­ing heard about TAPS, Staats and her daugh­ter went to their first TAPS region­al meet­ing eight months out from their loss, mark­ing “the start of our heal­ing,” she said. 

Two years lat­er, Staats was asked to become a men­tor. After exten­sive online and in-per­son train­ing, she was assigned to be a men­tor for a woman in Col­orado Springs, Colo. “I was scared to take that on, because I felt respon­si­ble and did­n’t know if I could help her,” she said. “I weighed the deci­sion for a few days.” 

Staats decid­ed to make the call and “just lis­tened and lis­tened,” she said. “Hope­ful­ly, that was help­ful for her.” 

She since has men­tored near­ly a dozen oth­er wid­ows through TAPS. She’s now men­tor­ing two women, one of whom she has nev­er met. But they exchange text mes­sages and e‑mails fre­quent­ly, she said. 

Staats has ben­e­fit­ed so much from her vol­un­teer work she refers to it as self-serv­ing. “We real­ly help each oth­er on our jour­ney,” she said. “It’s heal­ing to me to feel like I’m serv­ing a purpose.” 

Men­tor rela­tion­ships can become last­ing ones, Dey said. She’s heard of fam­i­lies stay­ing in close con­tact or tak­ing vaca­tions togeth­er. But whether they stay in touch for a month or for years, “the bond is very gen­uine,” she said. “It’s a beau­ti­ful and unique relationship.” 

Staats said she’s just grate­ful for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to help oth­ers, and her­self along the way. 

“The loss is pro­found, but what we’ve gained is immea­sur­able,” she said. “I’ve nev­er known friend­ships like this.” 

For more on this pro­gram, vis­it the TAPS web­site or read my Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice arti­cle “TAPS Men­tors Sup­port Fam­i­lies of Fallen.” 

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →