Mourning on Memorial Day: Military families of the fallen connect in DC

Military mentors and Good Grief campers in red shirts explore the National Mall. (Courtesy Tara Ruby)
Military mentors and Good Grief campers in red shirts explore the National Mall. (Courtesy Tara Ruby) (Courtesy Tara Ruby)
Military mentors in blue and Good Grief campers in red shirts explore the National Mall. (Courtesy Tara Ruby)
Military mentors in blue and Good Grief campers in red shirts explore the National Mall. (Courtesy Tara Ruby) (Courtesy Tara Ruby)
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) hosted their annual National Military Survivor Seminar and  Good Grief Camp in Arlington, Va., May 24-28. (U.S. Army photos by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) hosted their annual National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp in Arlington, Va., May 24-28. (U.S. Army photos by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia) (Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)
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Military mentors and Good Grief campers in red shirts explore the National Mall. (Courtesy Tara Ruby)
Military mentors in blue and Good Grief campers in red shirts explore the National Mall. (Courtesy Tara Ruby)
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) hosted their annual National Military Survivor Seminar and  Good Grief Camp in Arlington, Va., May 24-28. (U.S. Army photos by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)

WASHINGTON — Memorial Day is honored by many, but the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) will honor by mourning together: Over 2,000 participants are taking part in a National Military Seminar this weekend in the D.C.-area.

TAPS is a national organization for all those grieving the death of a military loved one, no matter how that loved one died, including suicide. The program’s 24th annual seminar spans over the holiday weekend. It started on Thursday, May 24 and will finish on Monday, May 28, and services are free to surviving families and loved ones.

“We have invited the families of America’s fallen heroes to gather in Washington, D.C. to honor their loved one and to grieve together as a community,” Bonnie Carroll, president and founder of TAPS, said. “Families find connection and hope and healing. They find resources and support.”

The five-day seminar includes the “Good Grief” camp for the children of the fallen. During the holiday weekend, over 500 kids will learn coping skills and will meet other children who have also lost a parent.

Carroll said the kids are paired up with their own TAPS-trained military mentor in a one-on-one relationship.

The volunteers are from different branches of the military who have stepped up to be a support to a grieving military child.

“We have some of our military mentors that have flown in from deployments from Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Korea to be with the kids they have mentored over these years,” Carroll said.

Adult survivors are learning skills to cope with traumatic grief over the weekend, as well.

After losing her military husband in a plane crash and finding herself alone in her grief, Carroll founded TAPS in 1994. She said, at the time, there were no resources to help her through her grief.

The seminar wraps up on Memorial Day with ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

TAPS National Military Survivor Helpline can be reached at 1-800-959-TAPS (8277).

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