The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors sponsored 200 surviving military family members from across the country who marched in today’s inaugural parade to honor their departed loved ones as well as all the nation’s fallen service members.
The parade commenced after President-elect Donald J. Trump took the oath of office as the 45th president of the United States.
The TAPS contingent, which included service members’ mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters and wives and children, carried photos of their fallen heroes along the two-mile parade route to honor their memories.
The group also included a van with a dozen Gold Star parents driving from Iowa together. Gold Star parents had sons or daughters who were killed in action during U.S. military service.
Established in 1994, TAPS provides comfort and hope 24/7,through a national peer support network and connection to grief resources, all at no cost to surviving families and loved ones, according to the organization’s website.
Since its founding, TAPS has assisted more than 60,000 surviving family members, casualty officers and caregivers, the website said. The organization provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, grief seminars and retreats for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, casework assistance, connections to community-based care, online and in-person support groups and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for all who have been affected by a death in the armed forces.
Kelly Griffith, sister of Maj. Sam Griffith, came from Arlington, Virginia. She said her time with TAPS has been invaluable, and that she’s humbled to be in the parade to honor the memory of her departed brother.
“It’s humbling to be able to take part in the inaugural parade,” she said. “Sam did a lot of living in his 36 years. This is an opportunity to really be a part of his living legacy. He wouldn’t have loved being singled out, but he loved history. He would’ve loved the opportunity to live in the moment and to take part in such a historic day.”
Griffith said TAPS changed her life.
“I was the only person home when the Marines came to the door Dec. 14, 2011,” she said. “It wasn’t until I came to TAPS that I learned I didn’t have to travel this journey alone. I went on retreats with other siblings and found so much healing, just being able to talk about Sam.”
Griffith added, “On the first retreat, another surviving sister sat down next to me, and asked me to tell her about Sam. It was the first time someone wasn’t asking me about his death but about his life. It made a big difference in my grief.”
Attending events like the inaugural parade is a chance to make new memories with her brother in her own way, she said.
TAPS has participated in inaugural activities since 1994, when the organization was founded by Bonnie Carroll, who is TAPS’ current president.
“TAPS is the national organization providing comfort and care to the families of America’s fallen heroes,” Carroll said. “We are there to support the military casualty officers whenever a death occurs, providing comfort and care, resources and support, for all those who are grieving the death of a service member. Those who are grieving find strength and solace in the company of others who understand their loss.”
Grieving families participating in today’s inaugural parade “will connect with their TAPS family and find hope and healing as they honor their heroes,” Carroll said.
She added, “We are so excited to participate in this historic event. Honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom has been a revered tradition in this nation since we have had a military.”
Sgt. Berkeley Elizabeth Attig, a military policewoman with Security Battalion, Base, Quantico, Virginia, has volunteered with TAPS as a Good Grief Camp mentor and team leader for the past two years.
“Walking with TAPS in the parade is a tremendous honor for the families and the organization; I’m proud to be a part of it,” she said. “Deciding to become a mentor has been one of the greatest honors in my life, and I urge more service members to consider becoming Good Grief Camp mentors. They can make a difference.”
Attig added, “Working with the children at TAPS has been one of the greatest joys in my life. My first year, I worked with the youngest group. Four and five-year-olds were challenging, but by the end of the camp during the balloon release, my mentee opened up and sent a message to her hero, her dad. Her bravery and honesty floored me, and made me reflect upon my own actions. Instead of closing herself off to everyone, she embraced it.”