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Patriots Game
Honor Your Fallen Hero with the NFL This Football Season

August 21, 2016

Football is a favorite pastime for many Americans, but for many of us in the TAPS family it's more than that - it's a special connection shared with our fallen heroes.

"Every game day when my husband was with us, he would have all our Patriots outfits laid out, ribs on the grill and nachos in the oven. Our two girls, Lani and Loralei, were his little cheerleaders and enjoyed the game as much as he did," Siobhan O'Brien, surviving wife of Gregg O'Brien, recalls. "After Gregg passed, our oldest, Lani, transformed into her version of a tomboy and wears Patriots apparel every day. It's her way of keeping her dad with her."

Through the TAPS sports program, teams4taps, opportunities are created for surviving families to connect with the teams and athletes they cheered for with their loved ones. When survivors share stories and photos of sports memories with their loved one, teams4taps works to create opportunities with those teams.

Thanks to a special partnership between teams4taps and the NFL, the O'Brien family and other TAPS survivors have been able to honor their loved ones alongside their favorite NFL teams and football players at games, training camps and more.

In November 2015, Siobhan O'Brien and her daughters took the field at a New England Patriots' game to help carry the American flag and see their dad honored on the Jumbotron. teams4taps was thrilled to work with the team to make this happen after Siobhan shared her family's memories about the Patriots with teams4taps staff.

Halfway across the country, Don Lipstein, surviving father of Josh Lipstein, was able to stand on the field of his favorite team, the Denver Broncos, to honor his son. teams4taps helped create this lasting memory for Don and his family after he shared a photo of Josh in a Broncos jersey on social media.

The Kalafut family got to interact with NFL players in a different setting after responding to a teams4taps invitation. Mary and her three sons, Christopher, Keegan and Michael, toured the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coke with Atlanta Falcons player Matt Bryant and went on a Christmas shopping trip with Pat DiMarco and other players as part of the Shop with a Jock program.

Mary said the experiences her family has had with the Falcons has been meaningful in their grief journey. "It's a glimmer of happiness, or joy, back in our lives. So I think that's helped with the whole healing process."

teams4taps will continue to work with NFL teams across the country for the 2016-2017 season to remember and honor our fallen heroes. Plans are underway for honors with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders, to name a few.

Be on the lookout for details about upcoming event opportunities via email and social media and check out our special events calendar for upcoming teams4taps events. Remember, if you have a special memory or connection to a team or player, please share your story by emailing teams4taps@taps.org.

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2016 NMSS Mentor and Child
Saturday Morning Message: More Gifts from Our Loved Ones

August 13, 2016

Good Morning,

This picture of a TAPS child and Good Grief Camp mentor at this year's National Military Survivor Seminar had to be the picture of the day. The child's face says it all as the two bond.

The gifts we give each other are the compassion and support that come from the heart. This week's comments give us the opportunity to share the gifts given by our loved ones. Thanks to all who replied to this question as well as those who read the Saturday Morning Message.

I am on vacation next week, so there will not be a Saturday Morning Message on Aug. 20. Please send your replies to this week's question just as you normally would, and they will appear in the Aug. 27 edition. 

Often, I like to make those who read the Saturday Morning Message aware of different opportunities at TAPS. TAPS is doing a special campaign to observe Suicide Prevention Month. Throughout September, we hope surviving families who have suffered a suicide loss of a loved one who served in the military will take a moment to participate by:

  • Submitting a blog post for inclusion on our special #HopeHelpHeal blog. Please send your submission to blogs@taps.org by Aug. 26.
  • Sharing a photo, video or memory on social media and tagging TAPS by using #HopeHelpHeal. We will retweet and repost on our social media pages throughout September.

If you would like to share your personal story in your community, we would be happy to help you. Please email Kelly Griffith at kelly.griffith@taps.org for tips on how to write a press release, write a letter to the editor or call in to a radio show. 

We will be collecting all your posts, stories and photos at TAPS.org to honor those we have lost and to give hope to those suffering in silence. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

A few weeks ago, Kim, spouse of Milton, asked this question on the TAPS Yahoo groups, so I thought it would be a great question for this week. She wrote, "'Remember the love, celebrate the life, share the journey' is such an inspirational quote! Does anyone else have a quote that they would like to share with us?" Make sure you include the author of the quote and a few sentences about why the quote touches your heart. I look forward to the replies. 

 Song for the Week 

Bevin, daughter of Don, sent this song "Tell Your Heart to Breath Again." She shared how two lines from the song make her feel: 

"'Your story is far from over and your journey has just begun.' Isn't that how we all feel? Every word of this song makes my heart feel better."

"'Love sees farther than you ever could.' This gives me so much comfort to trust that the pain will eventually recede and I have to move forward because while my daddy's life is over, my story is still unfinished and I know he wants me to realize all my potential." 

Answers from Survivors 

From Caryn, mother of Nathan: One of the many gifts my son and my husband left me was the desire to gather knowledge and to seek the answers. They both had high IQs, and we never ran out of things about which to talk. "I've always had the need to seek out knowledge, been driven to "find the right answers" and am never satisfied with the answer "because." There's always an answer." Nathan and Micheal drove me to dig a little deeper until a satisfactory answer presented itself. They always seemed to have the answers. I miss the back and forth, comparing answers and asking more questions. But I do continue in my quest for knowledge and understanding. Sometimes I ask myself, "What would they say or do?" If I'm really quiet, the answer might just appear - in a dream, a song, a book and even in phone calls from family and friends. The two of them still seem to be helping further my knowledge base even from the other side!

From Sandra, mother of Adam: My son left me with a life that, even in the depths of my sorrow, is far richer than it might have been, just for his existence on this earth. Beyond that, and all the precious memories I have, there are two very different gifts that stand out.

The very last time I saw him, he was concerned about my being alone in my home, and he worked far past the time his wife wanted to leave installing deadbolts on my doors. He wanted to be certain that I was as secure as possible. I think of him every time I come and go, looking at and using those deadbolts. The very last thing he did when we were together was to ensure my protection.

Earlier on that same last day we were together, he asked me where the Eagle, Globe and Anchor pin was that he received at the end of the Crucible at boot camp. He said that since Dave, my husband and former Marine, was gone, I couldn't keep the pin; only a Marine could keep it. I was out in the driveway saying goodbye to him and his family when he said, "Wait! I forgot something in the house!" He had me come in with him and showed me where he had pinned his EG&A to my husband's flag in his flag box. He winked, gave me a hug and a kiss, and said, "That's where it belongs, and that's where it will stay." That was his most prized possession from the Marine Corps and to have that to view with my husband's flag makes me very proud.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: What gift did my son leave me? We didn't have the easiest time together when he was a teen. He was a tough young man who I truly didn't "get" until he enlisted. He loved the military from day one in boot camp. He changed into a man. He accepted responsibility and was accountable, as well. The gift he gave me was a Mother's Day card that had a million thanks on the front. (Yes, I saved it.) Inside was a handwritten letter from him (this is lost) thanking me for raising him the way I did. He stated he finally understood what I was trying to do for him. He told me about the differences between what he knew and what other newly enlisted knew and thanked me again. After that, we spoke daily and always ended with, "Love you, ol' lady!" And that is the last thing he said on the phone that Sunday night - on Monday morning he was gone.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: When I thought about the question, I realize there are so many gifts Caleb left me - tangible and intangible. Today, I think of the gift of family/community he left me that has meant so much. This is not blood relation, this is heart relation. The people Caleb left us are wonderful and caring. They are people of integrity and filled with so much compassion and wisdom. He surrounded himself with people of humility and gratitude - military and nonmilitary. These amazing people keep in touch, come and visit, and have been such blessings in my life. They are people who love my son. There is a part of Caleb in each one, and their presence in my life is a gift that is priceless!

From Donna, mother of Eric: My son gave me the greatest gift I could ever want to receive - his time. His last visit home he spent every moment with me. We enjoyed each other's company. We laughed, we played, we had deep discussions. I felt like we had caught up with each other finally and reconnected. I was reassured that he loved me and was glad I was his momma. I learned how much he was actually like me. Our bond was stronger than ever. I needed that desperately after he was killed in action. I needed to know positively that he knew how much I loved him. And I needed to know he loved me. He had been gone for so long with very little communication. His training in the military schools was very time consuming. Training for three deployments with no phone, then two previous deployments with no phone, left very little time to talk at all. I felt we had drifted. So the greatest gift he could have ever given me, and he did, was his time.

From Ruth, mother of James: The greatest gift Jim gave to his family was love. Jim loved to talk and we had so many conversations that at times it is hard to remember them all. One night, we were talking on the phone and he suggested that we come and visit him and his family in Germany. I laughed and said, "Oh, maybe tomorrow." Quickly, he asked me if I knew what that meant. I will never forget his explanation.

"Mom, yesterday is where we store all of our memories. Tomorrow is where we put our dreams. Today is when you wake up in the morning and know that there are things to do, people to visit, love to share. I want to be part of your warm memories, but I do not want to be left in a dream. Come see me now while we can laugh and say all of the things that will create wonderful memories."  

We didn't make that trip. It was left in our dreams.

Upcoming Chats                                                                                                                

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, August 18, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carla Stumpf-Patton and Kim Suggs

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at1-800-959-8277.  

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Father and son still connected
The shining light in an endless tunnel

~ Jonathan Jay Gee Sr., Survivor

August 10, 2016

Over the last several months, which were full of frustration, anger, depression, and PTSD, I have seen the latest TAPS Magazine lying around the house or maybe a TAPS coffee mug.  I've been thankful for my TAPS Peer Mentor whom I regularly talk with mostly through text message. Well, he keeps texting me with words to help in my daily struggle through my son’s birthday, holidays and other key dates.  I am sure he has no understanding of what his support means to me.

I am a Gold Star father who participated in all my son’s childhood activities -- baseball, soccer, drumming, karate, and soccer.  We had a very close bond.  It was even difficult for me to drop him off at the MEPS station for his new journey in the Marines.

Little did I know what was about to unfold on August 29, 2015. With several family members and friends at my house, Marines arrived at the door for me on that dreadful day.  I cannot forget the keening sounds my daughter made as she was told the news about her brother. Eventually, all the family and friends left, and I was left to live a nightmare that continues to this day. I still struggle, see a psychiatrist and have completed a lot of therapy with a good counselor.  Nothing seems to fully help, but I keep working at it.

On a Monday in August I am struggling to even move as my son’s suicide date is a few weeks away.  I sit on the couch and guess what is next to me on the end table? Yes, a TAPS Magazine. I start reading some of the stories and advice. One particular excerpt mentions doing something bigger than me. I started thinking about it and am still thinking. The question I ponder is, “what can I do that is extraordinary?”  I don’t know yet, but what I have decided, at this moment, is to support the TAPS program the best I can. I will offer any insight that is needed, volunteer my time, show compassion to others needing help, and donate monetary funds.

Honestly, when I first heard about TAPS I thought it was the transition assistance program that I went through when I exited the Air Force.  Boy was I in for an awakening.  What I realize today is that TAPS has been there from the beginning and is still there for me now!  Their programs are there for all survivors in our darkest hours and hardest moments.

 Jon Gee in uniformSeveral of Jonathan’s childhood friends used to call me late at night, crying as they sought help and answers. I was in no shape to counsel, so I referred them to TAPS. They told me it has changed everything. One of his girlfriends stated she was on the phone for hours with TAPS.  Before that she did not know such a wonderful program existed.  I am going to help change that by using my positive energy to support those who have helped me.

I cannot believe it has been eleven months since my son took his life. While I have been in this dark, dark tunnel, I always seem to find TAPS there to help my psyche. I started writing today, and it has helped. I hope to continue my writing journey in order to provide peace in my life and hopefully help someone else reading this.  

It is not easy writing through my experiences of a turbulent life since the passing of my son, Cpl. Jonathan Miles Gee, USMC.

Today, I needed to say, “Thank You, TAPS!”

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Wright, Susan and Horse
Saturday Morning Message: Gifts from Our Loved Ones

August 6, 2016

Good Morning,

There were so many thoughtful replies to this week's question that I am going to say very little. I thought you would like to see a picture of Susan, the jockey, with her husband Charles and her most beloved horse, Too Far Gone. You can read her memory of her husband's gift below in the Answers from Survivors. 

Questions are the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. In order to keep things fresh, I am looking for more questions. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed, you can email me at carol.lane@taps.org. In addition to replies that are placed in the message, I also look for thoughts you have. You can write to me anytime just to communicate or share your thoughts on what could make the Saturday Morning Message more helpful. Because I am planning a trip this week, please send your replies to this week's question by Monday afternoon. You are an important part of this message, and I look forward to your questions or any ideas you may have. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

There were many replies to last week's question sent by Kellie, spouse of Mark, which was: What is one gift your loved one left you, and how have you embraced that gift? We are going to keep the same question this week so all the thoughtful replies can be included. If you didn't reply this week, please feel free to send your thoughts, and they will go into the Aug. 13 Saturday Morning Message. Thanks to all who write and read this message. 

 Song for the Week 

Caryn, mother of Nathan, sent two songs for this week. The first is "You'll Never Walk Alone" performed by Celtic Woman along with a wonderful children's choir. Caryn wrote that the song is "a constant reminder to me that my son and others are always with me, and I'm not just talking to the air!" She also sent "A Song for Mama" performed by Boyz II Men, which she heard while falling asleep. She said, "It felt like a message from Nate." 

Answers from Survivors  

From Susan, spouse of Charles: My husband was my mentor. I started riding racehorses for him years ago, and a fiercely loyal friendship turned to love. When you risk death by thoroughbreds daily for a living, it's a shared bond to which only a few can relate.

I've been blessed by many good coaches in several aspects of my life, but none more all-encompassing than the racing coach I married. For 10 years full time, we poured ourselves into the "sport of Kings." For 25 years, we made a living foxhunting. It is amazing what you can do for a living in Virginia.

The dedication it takes to care for animals 24/7 is a good life lesson because no matter what happens on a daily basis, you get up, you go out and you take care of the animals. They are defenseless without you. Since my husband's death, I have felt the fear of feeling defenseless myself.

I used to turn to him in the paddock every week waiting for last-minute instructions and ask, "What should I do?" He would tell me whatever he felt needed to be done for that race.

He taught me everything I knew about horses, hounds and living life on the edge. I now wear a permanent bracelet that says "fearless forever," so I only need to look down should I forget. I will never forget HIM.

From Merry, mother of Wesley: I have so many mementos sitting around the house from Wes that he created during the years. I cannot part with them. The personal interactions over the years that were positive greet me during the week. I think about the not-so-positive interactions as well. Five days before Wes died, we planned a trip to Scotland together. Knowing that we had a mom/son goal for the future is sort of a gift I think about sometimes. I doubt I will ever go there myself - too painful. I do have a goal to travel sometime to Switzerland. My ancestors on my mother's side came to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s, and I'd like to make the documented connection somehow.

From Holly, spouse of Darin: Our two beautiful daughters are the obvious answer for the greatest gift my husband left me, and also something he never said to me: "What did you do all day?" When the girls were little, when he got home at the end of the day I would look around with frustration and point out that the house was a mess, I hadn't cooked dinner, and there was a green crayon in the dryer that melted and left green stains on all our sheets. He would point to our children and say, "Look at their smiling faces. They are happy and healthy and growing. That's what matters." My sweet neighbor reminded me of those priorities recently when I was talking to her about how I don't have time to plant pretty flowers in my yard. She said, "Holly, if you had a yard full of pretty flowers, I would worry about you because I would know you didn't have your priorities straight. I know your girls are your priority." Our girls are now about to be a senior and a sophomore in high school, and I know my husband must be so proud of them. I think the experiences that TAPS families share make us all more aware of our priorities in life.

From Patricia, mother of Kyle: This week's question is great. I have to tell you that Kyle has left me so many good gifts.To begin, he has left me three grandkids. The youngest looks so much like him. She has his personality, his smile, eyes and heart. She is everything he was when he was her age. But he has also left me a whole lot of love that will last me for the rest of my life. Even though he was very mischievous, his smile warmed my heart. Kyle was helpful, caring and kind. He did not have to know you to help you. He always reminded me of my grandmother. Those are her qualities. But he got most of his looks from his mother. I have to say when I think of him even though it brings tears to my eyes it also brings a smile to my face.

Elise, mother of Daniel: One of the many gifts my son left me is the love of travel and the appreciation of the world around us. Daniel and I traveled throughout the western United States, Canada and Europe. These trips left me with many memories of our time together. He loved to experience different cultures, so I think that is why the military life fit him so perfectly. Since he was killed in 2008, I've only gone on a few large trips, but when I do I know he is proud I'm continuing one of his passions.

From Winona, spouse of Clifford: Those gifts that are so near and dear to me are his cards and notes. Cliff couldn't pass up a musical card. It was the opportunity to say what was on his heart, to appreciate me or just to be funny. I've kept them over the years in a wooden box, and I pull them out whenever I need to "hear" from him. But Cliff didn't need a card. Sometimes it was an advertisement mailer ("Which scent do you like best? I like the vanilla") or - my favorite - a handwritten note scrawled on a piece of torn notebook paper found behind the bread box a month after he passed.

Upcoming Chats                                                                                                                

Parent Chat  
Date: Monday, August 08, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson  

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, August 09, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs  

Widow-Widower Chat  
Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Kim Suggs  

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.  

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at1-800-959-8277.  

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Hands with bracelets
An Open Letter to Our TAPS Family During Election 2016

August 3, 2016

Since 1994, TAPS has worked with leaders at all levels of the military and government to provide the best compassionate care for families of the fallen. We remain to this day a non-lobbying, non-partisan organization working across party lines to ensure quality programs and resources for military survivors regardless of anyone's political affiliations or beliefs.

We recognize in the past week many across our TAPS Family are feeling the fatigue of political debate and fighting. Our primary mission remains your comfort and care. When grief and stress are high, when misunderstandings arise, you will always have with TAPS: ears that listen, hearts that innately understand your pain, and arms to hold you. 

During this election season, we encourage all across our TAPS Family to be informed, involved, and vote.  Our loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom to cast ballots for the candidates we feel most in keeping with our own individual standards. So regardless of party - Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Independent - we support everyone's right to take part in the process. 

Whatever our differences of individual opinions in who best represents us as President of the United States this year and elections to come, our common unique thread - the sacrifice that has been ours alone to bear for this country - is what will always bind us together. We are a family. "Family means nobody gets left behind." 

We can expect to see more rancor and upset in the news cycle into November and beyond. We want always this page, our events, and our words to be the sacred safe places providing hope, help, and healing for those who deserve the respect of every citizen. As we raise awareness together to support families of the fallen, let us also raise our voices in accord with kindness and civility as our heroes' living legacies.

With love and gratitude,

TAPS 

 

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Military Organizations V3
TAPS Joins Letter to Candidates on Honoring Families of the Fallen

August 1, 2016

(Updated August 2, 2016) 

To the military and veterans communities, nothing is more sacred or honored than the families of those who are grieving the death of their fallen military hero, a member of our armed forces who has died while serving their country.

More than a hundred years ago, the President of the United States wrote reverently to a grieving military mother, "I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."

Regardless of religion, race, or creed, their sacrifice, the loss of a family member is unimaginable. Their loved one's body is laid to rest under the American flag in our national cemeteries, and their death is honored and remembered each Memorial Day by a nation grateful for their service.

In 2004, United States Army Captain Humayan Khan was killed by a suicide bomber when he rushed forward to protect his soldiers and nearby civilians. As with so many families across the United States, the loss and sacrifice of the Khan family has earned them the right to ask hard questions of all those seeking elected office, whether at the local, state or national level.

As Republican, Democratic, and Independent military, veterans, family members and survivors, we ask that all candidates, at all levels, demonstrate the character demanded of the offices they seek, and respect not only those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom but also their families who have borne such a loss to protect our liberties.

Again in the words of Abraham Lincoln as he spoke to a nation divided by a great civil war, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."

Thank you all for honoring America's fallen heroes by respecting their families.

SIGNED:

Blue Star Families bridges the gap between military family communities and the general public. Through partnerships, Blue Star Families provides free resources, services, and opportunities to more than 1.5 million military family members—making military life more sustainable.

Give an Hour is a national nonprofit organization that provides free mental health care to those who serve, their families and their communities. Since 2005 Give an Hour has harnessed the generosity and expertise of mental health professionals across the country to provide over 192,000 hours of free care and support to members of the military, our veterans and the families of the fallen.

Gold Star Wives members are the widows/widowers whose spouses died while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States, or as result of service-connected disabilities. Members of Gold Star Wives appear before various House and Senate Committees on issues concerning compensation, educational benefits, medical care and other programs pertaining to the welfare of military survivors.

Got Your 6 believes that veterans are leaders, team builders, and problem solvers who have the unique potential to lead a resurgence of community across the nation. Got Your 6 unites nonprofit, Hollywood, and government partners to integrate these perspectives into popular culture, engage veterans and civilians together to foster understanding, and empower veterans to lead in their communities.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors has cared for the families of America's Fallen Heroes since 1994, through programs and services that meet the needs of all those grieving the death of a military loved one. Support includes the 24/7 National Military Survivor Helpline; retreats, camps and survivor weekends for all who are grieving; connections to community based care; and a national network of peers.

Travis Manion Foundation engages with veterans and families of the fallen in all stages of their personal journeys and offers them unique opportunities to empower them to achieve their goals. TMF believes that the best way to honor the fallen is by challenging the living. TMF challenges veterans and survivors to lead the “If Not Me, Then Who…” movement and inspire others to continue the service to community and country exemplified by the nation’s fallen heroes.

Sons and Daughters In Touch is a 27-year old non-profit organization committed to locating, uniting and supporting the Gold Star 'sons and daughters' whose fathers were among the 58,315 American servicemen lost in the Vietnam War. The fathers of SDIT's members served at every rank in every branch of the United States military; fought in every battle during our nation's involvement in SE Asia; and are now remembered on every panel of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Today, SDIT has impacted the lives of nearly 5000 Gold Star 'sons and daughters.' 

The Mission Continues is a national nonprofit organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. Our operations in cities across the country deploy veteran volunteers alongside non-profit partners and community leaders to solve some of the most challenging issues facing our communities: improving community education resources, eliminating food deserts, mentoring at-risk youth and more. Through this unique model, veterans build new skills and networks that help them successfully reintegrate to life after the military while making long-term, sustainable transformations in communities and inspiring future generations to serve. 

Hope For The Warriors is a national nonprofit founded in 2006 dedicated to restoring a sense of self, family and hope for post 9/11 veterans, service members and military families. Since its inception, Hope For The Warriors has served approximately 10,000 through a variety of support programs focused on transition, health and wellness, peer engagement and connections to community resources. The nonprofit's first program, A Warrior's Wish, has granted 151 wishes to fulfill a desire for a better quality of life or support a quest for gratifying endeavors. In addition, Run For The Warriors has captured the hearts of more than 22,000 since 2010. 

Women Veterans Interactive (WVI) is a national nonprofit organization formed in 2011 to meet women veterans at their points of need through advocacy, empowerment, interaction and unification (AEIOU). Because every woman veteran is unique, WVI programs are distinctly designed to address the specific needs of the emergent women veterans' population. Since inception in 2011, WVI has supported over 1,300 women veterans and women in the military. 

Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America (JWV) was founded in 1896 and is one of the oldest active veterans' organizations in America. JWV is dedicated to upholding America's democratic traditions and fighting bigotry, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination of all kinds. As a national organization, JWV represents the voice of America's Jewish veterans on issues related to veterans' benefits, foreign policy, and national security. JWV also commits itself to the assistance of oppressed Jews worldwide. 

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1 TAPS
Saturday Morning Message: When You Need to Attend a Funeral

July 30, 2016

Good Morning,

I love the responses that come into the Saturday Morning Message each week. They show that although we are all grieving the loss of a loved one who served in the Armed Forces, there is a diversity in how we handle events in our lives. This week's question was about going to funerals for friends and family after the death of our loved ones. The replies that came in show various strategies that survivors have used, and I know they will all be helpful to others. I want to thank those who wrote and those who read this weekly message.

There are only two ideas I have to add. Make sure the TAPS helpline at 800-959-8277 is in your phone's contact list. That way if you feel you need support, you can go to a quiet place and call your TAPS family who are here to support you. It is always comforting to hear a voice you know is there for you and understands grief.

The other idea is to remember to practice self-care. Funerals can be stressful. The article from the TAPS Magazine archives, "Tips for Self-Care," written by Judy Tatelbaum, LCSW, is written for early grievers, but it's a good reminder that when stress comes into our lives, we need to treat ourselves gently. This article gives a list of suggestions on what to do to reduce the strain.

Questions are the   backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. In order to keep things fresh, I am looking for more questions. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed, you can email me at carol.lane@taps.org. In addition to replies that are placed in the message, I also look for thoughts you have. You can write to me anytime just to communicate or share your thoughts on what could make the Saturday Morning Message more helpful. Replies to the weekly question are best sent to me by Tuesday afternoon. You are an important part of this message, and I look forward to your questions or any ideas you may have. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

Kellie, spouse of Mark, has sent a variety of questions for the Saturday Morning Message. I thought this would be a good one for this week: What is one gift your loved one left you, and how have you embraced that gift?  Think of the gift as not just something physical, but also how your loved one touched you emotionally in a way that will forever remain in your heart. I look forward to your responses. 

Song for the Week 

The song of the week comes from Sandra, mother of Adam and wife of David. She writes that she fell in love with this beautiful song. "If you listen to it as if it were sung by the one who has passed, it's incredibly reassuring." The song is "Take Me Home," sung by Pentatonix.   

Answers from Survivors

From Annette, mother of Joseph: In answer to your question about going to wakes, I have been to many.  When it is the natural order of life, it doesn't seem to bother me. However, there have been two for young men recently and one was even in the same funeral home as Joe's wake. I could not bring myself to go to either, and I know it was understood. I went to the Mass for one and that was a challenge in itself. To see the mom fall apart just killed me. I have offered to speak to her but so far have not really had an answer, so when she is ready, if she wants to speak, I will be there for her.

From Robert, father of Louis: We went. The families invariably told us that we didn't have to, but these were the same people who came out for us. It can be difficult, especially when it's someone's child. We didn't stay long, except for someone in our family.

From Valerie, mother of Kevin: When there is a funeral or calling hours, I go and just say I am sorry. I do not use platitudes or say call me if you need anything. I listen and allow them to talk about the person who died. If it is a close friend, I will just go to the house with food or groceries to leave them. I don't ask - I just do what helped me when my son was killed six years ago this August.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: Funerals are tough.Two of my very dear friends have passed, as well as my father-in-law, since Caleb left this world. Of course, I went to their services, as hard as it was. My next door neighbor just passed away and I will go to his service. We've been neighbors for almost 20 years. For me, there is no easy way to approach funerals, no mantra that makes them any easier. I just know I have to go and go. I go to honor their lives. I inhale deeply, exhale and repeat … many deep breaths. I pray for strength to make it through. My husband is a wonderful support. I hold his hand tightly and sit close to him - it helps to know he is near. And that's how I approach funerals of loved ones and friends.  

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, August 02, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs  

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat  
Date: Thursday, August 04, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carla Stumpf-Patton and Kim Suggs  

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.  

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at1-800-959-8277.

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TeamTAPS
Create Your Custom Team TAPS Experience

July 25, 2016

Sports and endurance events are a unique and memorable way to honor your loved one while spreading awareness about TAPS. At Team TAPS, we want to help you pay tribute to your fallen hero through sports events, and there are a variety of ways to get involved.

If you want to lace up your running shoes and don the TAPS singlet, sign up for a Team TAPS premiere race. We’re excited to announce that registration is now open for the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 24-26. Dust off those princess tutus and join us in Florida! Visit www.teamtaps.org for a full list of upcoming races.

There are also opportunities to participate in custom endurance events. Run to support TAPS on your schedule, at your pace, with the new Team TAPS Our Memorials Move Virtual Run/Walk. You choose your distance, time and location. Run or walk your mileage all at once or over several days. Complete your course on a treadmill, a local trail or a community race near you, and get a medal to show off your hard work! Sign up for the TAPS virtual race by Aug. 31.

Team TAPS is also focused on helping survivors create their own endurance activities that honor their loved ones in their hometowns. One of these highly successful local events is the Andrew Sipple Memorial Day Swim Event: Laps for TAPS. The event continues the legacy of Spc. Andrew Sipple while raising money for the TAPS mission. Andrew was an active member of the neighborhood swim team. Now, the swim team and community join together to honor Andrew through a lap swim fundraiser and community breakfast for donations. You can learn about other hometown events in a recent TAPS Magazine article.

Whether it’s an annual hike, swimming event, bicycle race or sport of your choice, we’re here to coach you along the way. For specific guidelines and general recommendations to get started, contact Team TAPS at teamtaps@taps.org.

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Men at Retreat
Saturday Morning Message: How Grief Changes Vacations

July 23, 2016

Good Morning,

The changes after the death of a loved one can be problematic for many survivors, and one of those changes is how to take a vacation. Since this is the time of year many people choose to take a vacation, I thought this would be a good question as there might be survivors wondering what others do. I thank those who replied this week to the question as you will see some different thoughts on the topic.

In addition to the replies this week, you may want to read an article from the TAPS Magazine archives called "Vacations, Who Needs 'Em?" written by Betsy, mother of Bradley. In the article, Betsy and other survivors offer advice for taking vacations after losing your loved one.

Betsy first talks about those who are early on in their grief journey. She writes, "Sometimes it's hard to figure out where to start. A first step could be taking a day trip or planning a weekend away. This affords you the option of returning to your comfort zone sooner."

For those with children, Carol, spouse of Lawrence, talks about what she does when planning a vacation. She writes, "I try to encourage activities together whenever I can. Since they are involved in planning, they enjoy it also."

Janet, mother of Steven, said, "After his death, I planned the vacation of a lifetime for my granddaughter, daughter and myself: a seven-day Disney cruise in his memory. It brought back happy memories of his visits to Disneyland as a child."

You can also consider going to a TAPS event or retreat where you know your grief will be understood. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, so feel free to read what others have done and create your own vacation ideas.

Would you like to read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope. Replies to this week's question are best sent to me by Tuesday afternoon. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me at carol.lane@taps.org and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them. 

One suggestion a survivor had was to include a song of the week, which is now a weekly section. If you have a song that is special to you or reminds you of your loved one, please send it along with a sentence or two about what makes this song distinctive. 

One of our contributors, Andy, father of Danny, makes a playlist on Spotify of the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages along with a few other songs special to him. The playlist is free and called "Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance." I often listen to it while I am on the computer, and I think of our TAPS family. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message 

The question this week comes from Sandra, mother of Adam and spouse of David. She needed to go to a funeral recently, so she hoped she could gather some strategies other survivors use when faced with wanting to support friends and loved ones but find funerals difficult to attend. Her question is: How do others approach funerals when friends and loved ones die?  

Song for the Week 

This week's song of the week is actually a video put together by Terri, mother of Jason, that combines the song "Arms of an Angel" by Sarah McLachlan with pictures of Jason and their friends and family. The video is called "PTSD: Fallen Soldier Lost to Suicide." I found it beautiful and knew it just had to be included in the Saturday Morning Message

Answers from Survivors

From Robert, father of Louis: Yes, they have changed and not for the better. We went to Ogunquit, Maine, each year around our anniversary on June 6. Louis was killed June 8 while we were on the beach. We have not been to Maine since then, and most likely we will never return. Only recently, Vivian was able to walk on the beach and put her feet in the water after 11 years. It's hard to look at the surf when we were there while Lou was going through his ordeal.

From Nikki, sister of Chad: Vacations haven't changed for me since we didn't really have many vacations growing up. My vacations are usually spent doing things that we didn't get to do growing up, having the chance to experience them for both of us or visiting Arlington where he is buried. I just want to be sure to live my life to the fullest to honor Chad's life.

From Donna, mother ofEric: We had plans of going to Hawaii but just couldn't bring ourselves to go while our son was in Afghanistan. How can we go to paradise while he's in hell? So we didn't go for several years.

Of course, everyone looks forward to vacations, but I long for them. There's something to be said about the anonymity of being in another place where no one knows I'm a gold star mom and no one looks at me with pity. And for a few days, I can pretend this nightmare that we live now is not true. But the truth catches up with my brain within a few days. Many short vacations are what I need now.

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, July 26, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Illness Loss Chat  
Date: Wednesday, July 27, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at1-800-959-8277.  

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Misty Blum
Support When You Need It

~ Misty Blum, Survivor

July 18, 2016

Some people describe the unexpected death of a spouse as having the air suddenly taken from their lungs, but I would have to disagree. I know that lack of air is certain death. It's been nearly three years since my husband died, and I'm still here. I think the death of a spouse or other close loved one is more like the loss of a limb. In most cases, it won't kill you but it will permanently alter every aspect of your life and how you live it. You will survive. You're just different. You have to relearn even the basics in life.

TAPS Peer Mentors are like being fitted with a prosthetic limb after the loss of your own. You could probably get by without one, but the introduction of such a device opens up new possibilities to get back to a “new normal" faster and with a renewed determination. The decision to accept a Peer Mentor is much like the choice to use your prosthetic limb. You make the call. We can be utilized as little or as much as you decide. We are there to assist in this new and sometimes painful journey. We want to provide a soft place to land when you need to fall apart. We won't tell you how to grieve, but we’ll provide a safe place to do so with peers who have been there.

I became a Peer Mentor about a year ago. I was nervous about exactly what the training would entail. I decided to receive my training at the annual National Military Suicide Survivors Seminar. Don Lipstein primarily led the training class, and he was so passionate about what Peer Mentors do and helping survivors that I wanted to join him the moment he started speaking. The training was short but intense. Before we could become Peer Mentors we had to dig deep within ourselves and decide if we'd healed enough personally to see past our own loss in an effort to truly aid our potential mentees. There were tears and laughter but mostly a more comprehensive idea of exactly what was expected of us should we move on. I asked so many questions. We learned there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and our job isn't to tell new survivors how to get through it but to just "be there."

In my opinion, this is our first and most important job as Peer Mentors. Simply our presence. Because everyone is different. The way we grieve is also different. We let our mentees steer the relationship. Some survivors need constant support and assurance, and others just need to be reminded periodically that they aren't alone. I think a good Peer Mentor can pick up on the cues and follow the mentee’s lead. The training we receive and lessons we learn while mentoring cross over into our lives in how we interact with others outside of TAPS. The experience provides a wealth of knowledge. It really helps in understanding human nature and relationships.

Becoming a Peer Mentor has been one of the most empowering experiences since the death of my husband. I have moved from the role of a victim to one of a healer. That is so huge. Not only am I helping others in what studies have shown to be the most stressful event in adult life but they are helping me in return. That is profound. That is TAPS Peer Mentoring. I am grateful for my own Peer Mentors who were there for me in 2013, and I'm proud to assist those who come after me.

 

This blog is copyrighted by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). These blog posts may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any means, electronic or otherwise, without prior written approval. It is permissible for an individual reader to view, reproduce or store a copy of this article, provided it is used only for their own personal and non-commercial use. Uses beyond that allowed by the “Fair Use” limitations (sections 107 and 108) of the U.S. Copyright law require permission from TAPS. Please contact blog@taps.org to request permission. All other rights reserved.

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