There are many worthwhile causes to donate to during the Combined Federal Campaign, but none have left its "finger prints" on my life like TAPS has. Little did I know how volunteering one Memorial Day Weekend in 2006 would change my life forever and provide me with an organization that I would not only love, but give my time, money and support to. While others are remembering the service of those who earned our freedom through patriotic parades, ceremonies, and barbeques, there is a small group of individuals that give their Memorial Day weekend to touch the lives of the families of the fallen. Through the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp, Regional Survivor Seminars, and USO/TAPS Good Grief Camp Outs, volunteers and families of the fallen teach each other how to honor their loved ones, cope with their loss, and celebrate the lives of their loved ones.
Today with all of the deployments and engagements abroad, resiliency is a "buzz-word" or hot topic in the military; these children and families are a shining example of resiliency personified. Their courage and character never cease to amaze me and encourage me to be a better service member and person as a whole…their resiliency and bravery are truly commensurate to those of us who serve in uniform.
My journey began with a "too cool for school" teenager throwing a football around. It started as, "you're weird" to "you're weird, but very funny…we like you." As the teen group got to know each other through hanging out, the "cool exterior" melted as these young adults started sharing the amazing stories of their loved ones, details of their passing, and life after their loss. I was astonished by their courage and by seeing the role transformation from acting like the adult of the house to a pre-teen/teenager again. This transformation over such a short time is truly an awe-inspiring thing to see. This weekend not only taught them that it's okay to be a "kid again," but that they are not alone.
Since that day, I have been privileged to be a part of numerous national and regional TAPS Good Grief Camps, as well as many other TAPS events.
These teens have taught me to cherish every second of every day. I learned to always be thankful for the people I serve with and those that in uniform also. Any opportunity I have, I try to give everything that I can back to these young adults and families of the fallen. Now, every event is like a family reunion filled with hugs, tears of joy and sadness, and experiences I would not have received through any other organization or opportunity. Like military service, TAPS provides a community of volunteers, mentors, mentees, and staff members committed to one mission: caring for the families of the fallen.
Unlike other charities I have donated to, I have seen my donations hard at work through the multiple TAPS events over the years. I could not think of a greater organization or cause to donate my time, money, or life to. Once you donate, come to a TAPS event and I assure you, you will heal yourself by helping heal others. Join us and you will see how many of us are "hooked for life" as you help these great families piece their lives back together!
Peter Mask volunteers for the TAPS Good Grief Camp program to help support children and teens grieving the death of a loved one who died while serving in the military. We thank him for sharing his perspective on why he gives back to TAPS in so many ways. You can donate to TAPS through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC #11309) or donate your time. Download a card to share about supporting TAPS through the Combined Federal Campaign with family and friends!
Pictured: Peter Mask at the TAPS Good Grief Camp with a child over Memorial Day Weekend in 2007. In 2013, more than 500 children grieving the death of a loved one who served in the military attended the camp. Watch a video about their experiences.