Mullen Pledges Ongoing Support for Families of Fallen
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 28, 2010 Just days before the nation pauses to pay tribute to fallen servicemembers, America’s senior military officer took time out today to stress the importance of their sacrifice and pledge his ongoing support for their families.
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deborah, talk with Elizabeth Church at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp opening in Crystal City, Va., May 28, 2010. The seminars and camps provide information to spouses and children of fallen servicemembers to help heal and cope with life after loss. DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“We are blessed … to have a military that’s the best it’s ever been, in the best country that’s ever been, because of the service of those who raised their right hand and went off to do their nation’s bidding,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “Those whom we lost epitomize the absolute best of the best.”
The chairman spoke to hundreds of families of fallen servicemembers at the 16th Annual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors National Military Survivor Seminar here. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support to people grieving the loss of a servicemember.
People from across the nation are attending the seminar this weekend to share stories, find comfort and to learn coping strategies for dealing with loss. In conjunction with the seminar, about 350 children are attending the TAPS Good Grief Camp, where they are discovering ways to deal with loss through educational activities and the development of a peer support network.
Few people understand the level of loss these families have experienced, Mullen noted.
“The only way we can approach understanding is to stay engaged, and to do as much as we possibly can to make sure that sacrifice is honored in every possible way,” he said. “We ensure, we in ways become the guarantor that we as a country will never forget the sacrifice that your loved ones have made.”
Mullen praised TAPS for its care for families of the fallen, noting that it’s more than just an organization; it’s a family of people who share a common bond.
“You and your member -- your son, your daughter, your brother, your sister, your mom, your dad -- you are the face of these two very difficult conflicts,” he said. “We as a country can never, ever forget that.”
Mullen recalled a recent trip he and his wife, Deborah, took to Dover Air Force Base, Del., where servicemembers killed in combat first return to U.S. soil. He visited with some families who recently had lost a servicemember in a bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, and took particular note of a 9-year-old boy whose “hero had died.”
“To look into his eyes and see the need that was there, the lack of understanding that was there -- I’ll never forget the look, I’ll never forget the hug, and the need he transmitted in those few seconds that he will have the rest of his life and that we all work so very hard to fill,” the chairman said.
“There are hundreds here today just like [that boy],” he continued. “I can’t say enough about the ability to meet that need or to fill up some of that gap.”
The chairman vowed his continued support toward that effort.
“Those losses penetrate spaces that are very hard to understand, but they are not hard to remember, they are not hard to recognize,” he said. “I believe you, I believe those who sacrifice so much in these wars, deserve to be taken care of, to have your needs met, to be supported for the rest of your lives.”
The chairman encouraged TAPS members to continue their work to touch families of the fallen, and to support those who will be affected by future sacrifices. “And sadly, they will continue to come,” he said.