Bonnie Carroll, the president and founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) says that the true lessons of war are not in what our warriors died for but for what, and for whom, they lived. With that in mind, and in light of the current events in Afghanistan, she says that TAPS is here for you 24/7. Simply call 1-800-959-TAPS (8277) or visit its website at https://www.taps.org/.
How TAPS was founded
During times of peace and international conflict, sacrifices are made by those who wear our nation’s uniforms – and by their families. TAPS was founded seven years before 9/11 in a time of peace following a U.S. Army plane crash in Alaska in 1992 that killed eight soldiers, including Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll.
Recognizing that there was no support network for families of our nation’s fallen heroes, Carroll’s surviving spouse, Bonnie, launched the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) to provide support and resources for all those grieving the deaths of military loved ones.
“In World War I and World War II, if you were severely injured, you most likely died on the battlefield,” Bonnie said. “The wars that followed 9/11 have seen many of our loved ones bringing the war home with them and dying from suicide as a result of post-traumatic stress or illness as a result of exposures.”
TAPS understands that sacrifices are made every day. Since 1994, it has been a constant source of support that offers a safe place for grieving military families to turn to, no matter how their loved one died.
Evolving Post 9/11: Suicide and toxic exposure
Post 9/11, TAPS has evolved to meet the needs of our nation’s grieving military families through research, networking, innovation, strategic partnerships and advocacy. Among service members and Veterans, the two leading causes of death in this modern era are suicide and illness due to toxic exposure. In response, TAPS has developed programs, resources and expert counseling approaches specifically catering to survivors grieving from suicide and illness losses.
Acquiring niche knowledge in these areas has led TAPS to become a prominent advocate and voice for our nation’s survivors, Veterans, caregivers and military families. On Capitol Hill, the organization has influenced legislation to improve educational benefits for surviving military families, raised awareness about military death by suicide and illness, and supported legislation related to toxic exposure in the military.
Grief is different for everyone
For the thousands of military survivors of suicide loss, TAPS understands that their grief is different – this type of grief is a complex of powerful emotions and complicated questions.
TAPS Suicide Prevention and Postvention helps stabilize families of suicide loss, guides them through “healthy grief” practices, and directs them onto a path of healing and growth. The TAPS Suicide Postvention Model TM is a best-practice approach to postvention care for survivors of suicide loss. This three-phase model has further influenced the development of similar support programs across the government and military space.
Additionally, TAPS recognizes the urgent need to support survivors who have lost military loved ones to illness or injury, particularly survivors who were caregivers for service members or Veterans before their deaths. TAPS created the Caregiver to Survivor program in a partnership with the American Red Cross’s Military and Veteran Caregiver Network and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. TAPS integrated subject matter expertise into the development of peer support services, programs and referrals to cater to the specific needs of caregivers who have become survivors.
The last several weeks have been especially heartbreaking for the people of Afghanistan, the military men and women who served, their families, our nation and the world watching. News coverage of recent events has revealed shocking images of violence and destruction, which have awakened feelings of hurt, grief, depression, anxiety, anger or confusion for those who have served in the Armed Forces. With the news from Afghanistan, distress is affecting service members, Veterans, families, survivors and caregivers.
Now more important than ever, TAPS is steadfastly supporting our surviving families, especially those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan or resulting from their service in Afghanistan. We understand that this time of chaos and uncertainty may bring about or heighten feelings of hurt, angst, anger and confusion.
Providing a safe space for all
The TAPS Institute for Hope and Healing® hosted a special panel presentation, Finding Meaning in Afghanistan, featuring personal accounts from military loss survivors, Veterans and Veteran families on how the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is currently affecting them. One survivor shared, “I realized how important it is to talk to someone else in this community. I hadn’t realized how much I needed it.” This panel was livestreamed on Aug. 20, 2021.
TAPS will always provide a safe space and supportive community for all those grieving a military loss – to walk alongside the families of our nation’s fallen heroes on each step of their grief journey. Each step of the way, TAPS will always provide comfort, support, and, most importantly, hope.
To learn more about TAPS programs and resources, ways to connect with other survivors, and other services, visit taps.org.
The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on the part of VA.