WASHINGTON, May 27, 2017 —
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis welcomed family members of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, to the Pentagon yesterday as part of the organization’s 23rd annual National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp.
“I cannot tell you what an honor it is to have you here,” the secretary told the many families of the fallen when they arrived at the Pentagon’s famed River Entrance overlooking the Potomac River and downtown Washington, D.C.
This year marks the third annual tour and camp for TAPS members, who visit here every Memorial Day weekend.
“We get a lot of important people in this building, but no one is more important to us in our hearts than all of you,” Mattis told the group of men, women and children.
The River Entrance is where the secretary greets visiting foreign-country ambassadors, presidents, prime ministers and kings, he told the group. “I will remember these steps much longer [because of] you standing on them than anyone [else], and they too would understand,” he said.
‘We Understand You’
Mattis said when they come here, they know they are talking to and seeing people who understand the loss of their spouses, father, mother, sister or brother.
“There is compatibility between us that brings honor to us just by your presence here,” he added.
“We understand you, we recognize what you have given, what your families have given and we stand with you,” the secretary said.
“The reason is you represent the best of our country, you represent everything that makes this country different in the world. And as long as we have families who are willing to carry the patriots’ burden like you, this experiment that we call America will continue to survive and continue to thrive,” Mattis told the group.
With more than two hours of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard exhibits, picnics, games and time to spend with members of the National Basketball Association, the secretary promised parents and children a fun night.
"We love every one of you, and your country loves you," Mattis said, adding that the people of the Pentagon never forget how much they owe TAPS families.
“This is the United States Department of Defense," he added. "We belong to you, we answer to you, and we think of you every day.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)