Dempsey Honors Survivors of Those Killed on Duty
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 20, 2013 The nation’s top military officer addressed a group of some 600 people who gathered here last night to honor the families of service members who died on active duty.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sings “The Unicorn” with Gabrielle and Chris Pierson during the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Honor Guard Gala in Washington, D.C., March 19, 2013. DOD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered keynote remarks as the head of a star-studded Pentagon delegation to a gala hosted by and benefiting the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS.
Dempsey said he and his wife, Deanie, “made a commitment that this is one of those organizations that, if they ask, we respond. It’s everything that’s good about the military family and the way we try to care for each other.”
Bonnie Carroll founded TAPS in 1994 to care for grieving military families after her husband, Army Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, was killed in a military plane crash in Alaska. The not-for-profit program offers a range of resources for surviving families, including survivor seminars, Good Grief camps for children and annual retreats each year tailored to different groups of grievers: widows, widowers and significant others; parents; and siblings.
Dempsey urged those in the audience to seek out and share the stories of the surviving family members who were among them, wearing red rose corsages or boutonnières. The chairman shared the inscription that accompanied one fallen soldier’s photograph in a yearbook from his earlier days at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
“Andrew’s quote in ‘The Howitzer’ was actually a quote from John Fitzgerald Kennedy,” Dempsey said. “And it went like this: ‘In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink’” -- and here, the chairman cleared his throat “‘from this responsibility.’”
All survivors have stories they want to share, Dempsey said. “At some level, that’s what TAPS does, actually,” he added. “It allows the stories, the more important stories in our lives, to keep us alive, to keep memories alive, to keep the people who have gone on to serve their country and paid the ultimate price … alive, and their families.”
TAPS embodies a commitment that is common to the nation and to the armed forces, the chairman said: “That bond of trust that we owe those who we ask to put themselves in harm’s way for their country.”
The challenge for their remaining military brothers and sisters is what marks the military as a profession, Dempsey said. “Trust that we will provide the young men and women we send into harm’s way with everything that they need, and that if they don’t come back, that their families will be cared for,” he said.
The chairman challenged the roughly 60 survivors in the audience to “celebrate our stories tonight.”
“I know each of you has a story that you not only want to tell, but should tell, and we’d like to hear … the stories of the young men and women and the not-so-young men and women who have given their lives in defense of their country.”