Jon Stewart helps launch program in Va. aimed at helping grieving families

ARLINGTON, Va. — Since 1994, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors has focused on providing resources and support for families of fallen service members across the nation.

Now, the organization has launched its new TAPS Institute for Hope and Healing, which will not only help military families, but also civilian families.

“This is going to be a home where all those grieving a loss can come and learn,” said TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll.

At the institute’s launch Monday in Arlington, Virginia, the first speaker was comedian and former host of “The Daily Show” Jon Stewart.

“TAPS has this incredible wealth of experience and compassion when it comes to grief and they’re the experts, and the fact that they are extending that base beyond just military families is, I think, a very exciting development,” Stewart said.

The institute, which was formed as a partnership between TAPS and the Hospice Foundation of America, will be offering events that are open to the public and aimed at helping families facing their darkest hours after losing a loved one.

“We’re bringing experts together to talk about loss, to talk about grief, to really give practical coping strategies,” Carroll said.

When it comes to supporting members of the military and first responders, Stewart said he is drawn to helping those who “give of themselves so selflessly.”

“It’s an unusual individual that when you hear the sounds of trouble, that actually moves toward it rather than away from it,” Stewart said. “I’m generally in the ‘I just have to be faster than the least fastest person’ [category],” the comedian joked.

Stewart has advocated in the past for members of the military and first responders.

Most notably, he was a driving force behind Congress passing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides medical help for first responders to the Sept. 11 attacks. While praising the work TAPS has done, Stewart said he would like to see members of the military and first responders receive more services and support from the government.

“We spend money incredibly frivolously in many different areas, and then we quibble over nickels and dimes when it comes to really important areas, and I think this is a really important area,” Stewart said.

Earlier in the day, Stewart was on Capitol Hill protesting a plan by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to transfer a program that treats 9/11 survivors from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to a separate agency. Those opposing the move fear it would risk the services the program provides.

“Just as the program has brought some peace of mind, just as the program has brought some level of exhale to these individuals and their families, they’re going to try and pull some bureaucratic shenanigans that throw it into disarray,” Stewart said.

Joe Grogan, associate director for health at the Office of Management and Budget, told the New York Post the OMB would not propose something that would “upset services” to first responders.

Stewart said he fears that even if the White House changes course on the proposal, the damage has already been done. He said, “The stress and the unease that 9/11 community members feel now is palpable. Now, once again, they are back on uncertain ground and it’s just not acceptable.”

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