Military Monday: TAPS Honors Survivors, Mentors at Annual Gala
By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity
Since 1994, when tragedy strikes a military family, TAPS has been there. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors has helped 70,000 surviving family members cope with the devastating loss of loved ones. On April 12, the group brought together survivors, peer mentors, mentors and sponsors for the TAPS Honor Guard Gala at the National Building Museum.
TAPS founder and president Bonnie Carroll said the group builds on the resiliency inherent in military families and lets survivors know there are people who can help if the unthinkable happens. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the keynote speaker at the gala. “TAPS is not about statistics, TAPS is about helping military families deal with loss,” he said. “It’s about keeping faith and it’s about lives that are changed.” People have to look behind the statistics to understand the impact of TAPS, Dunford said. He noted that the TAPS helpline racked up 3 million minutes in 2016, which translates to “16,000 people that have called in on a helpline and had someone on the other end that understood what they were going through and helped them.”
TAPS is about so many confronted with loss, the chairman said. “No matter what the circumstances -- it could be in battle, it could be in training, it could be as a result of something in everyday life -- TAPS stands behind all survivors,” he said. “What TAPS really means to those of us still in uniform is that someone is always going to be there for us and our families, especially if we confront tragedy.” The chairman noted that in October 2016, the country quietly marked the 15th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Since 2001, the country has asked a lot of its service members, he said. “To be honest, if you had asked me in 2001 or 2002, could an all-volunteer force maintain commitment over the course of that period of time, maintain focus, would we still be recruiting and retaining high-quality people at the end of that period of time, would our families be able to endure such sacrifice?” he said. “I think I and other senior leaders would have said at the time, ‘I don’t think so.’” The conflict has worn on service members, “but they are still committed, and the families are still willing to endure extraordinary sacrifice,” the chairman said.
Dunford praised TAPS and its cadre of volunteers, noting the organization’s efforts on behalf of military families provide “the strength behind our force.” “They are the reason that our men and women do what they do: they go out every day and focus on the mission, they don’t have to look over their shoulder and check their six o’clock, because they know, if something happens to them, somebody is there,” he added. “That somebody is you, that somebody is TAPS.” The organization presented the TAPS Senator Ted Stevens Leadership Award to Jaclyn Mariano, surviving daughter of Air Force Master Sgt. Jude Mariano.
Source: Department of Defense