Mullen Offers Appreciation to Surviving Families
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., May. 22, 2009 There’s no responsibility in the military community more important than caring for families who have lost loved ones to war, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today in an address to an organization specifically geared to help families cope with the death of their servicemember.
“[The Defense Department] has a commitment to you and your needs, and the entire gathering, of the families of the fallen,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said at the 15th Annual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp. “That commitment is for the rest of your lives.”
Mullen admitted he was a bit overwhelmed to speak to the nearly 300-member audience, all of whom had lost loved ones in the military. “I am so grateful for the service and sacrifice of Americans that you represent,” he said. “I can’t say enough about your courage and our admiration for who you are and what you are about.”
The four-day seminar and camp began yesterday and involves about 1,200 participants, including more than 350 children, attending workshops and a camp to learn to cope with the loss of their loved one. The organization, better known as TAPS, was started in 1994 by families whose loved ones died in a military plane crash. To date, TAPS has helped more than 25,000 surviving family members grieve for their fallen military person.
Mullen expressed his appreciation for TAPS, calling the organization “a reminder of who we are as Americans.”
The members of TAPS have dedicated the past 15 years to helping families through their grievance with support groups and in understanding their government benefits. Basically, TAPS provides a network for families so don’t have to be alone, he said.
“I’m eternally grateful for TAPS,” the admiral said. “[The Pentagon] spends a lot of time, in these very challenging times, looking for organizations that make a difference. There’s not one that makes more of a difference, in my view, than TAPS.
“None of us go through life alone, and none of us should go through grief alone,” he continued. “I understand the value of support.”
Mullen said that while no one else ever can fully understand the pain suffered by families of the fallen, organizations such as TAPS and observances such as the weekend’s Memorial Day celebration will ensure their legacies live on. He pledged always to remember their sacrifices.
“This is the most important weekend of the year, because we remember those who have made this country good -- every patriot, every hero, every sacrifice,” Mullen said. “My promise to you is that we will never forget.”