In November 1992, Bonnie Carroll’s life would take an unforeseen turn. Bonnie’s husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll and 7 other soldiers, were killed in an accident aboard an Army C-12 transport plane in Alaska. She now joined the ranks of thousands of other families who have lost a loved one serving our country in the Armed Forces.

One year after this tragic accident, Bonnie and the families of the other 7 soldiers met up on the mountain where the tragedy took place. Bonnie felt a sense of strength and solace being with those that truly understood her situation.

This sent Bonnie on a two-year search to find the support services available for bereaved military families. She found that, unfortunately, there were many gaps in services and help for these families. Following this experience, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) was created.

That was over 22 years ago, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) provides assistance and care to those grieving the death of a loved one serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Through a national peer support network and connection to grief resources, TAPS is able to provide help to those in need 24/7 at no cost to the surviving families. Despite humble beginnings, TAPS has provided families with the support they need during the most trying of times.

In 2015 alone, TAPS received 4,462 newly grieving family members, which averaged out to be upwards of 12 people per day seeking additional support. Within the first 75 days of 2016, TAPS saw a 24 percent increase of new survivors compared to that same time period in 2015.

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Earlier this month, former Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Buck McKeon and members of the McKeon Group team were able to take part in the Honor Guard Gala hosted by TAPS. The benefit was designed to raise additional funds to help survivors.

“It is an honor to support TAPS and their mission,” Howard McKeon, McKeon Group COO, said. “They find a way to maximize assistance for those who have made a great sacrifice for our country.”

Through TAPS, survivors can take advantage of a number of programs and resources following tragedy. TAPS provides: peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, grief seminars and retreats for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, case work assistance, connections to community based care, online and in-person support groups and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for all who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces.

It takes an average of 5 to 7 years for a family to reach a “new normal” after suffering a traumatic loss. Hundreds of children and teens attend TAPS Good Grief Camps year after year, for help in coping with the loss that they live with every day.

One of the children that “grew up” attending TAPS camps wrote to Bonnie Carroll and featured in a piece by Huffington Post, “I grew up in TAPS. After losing my dad I was able to find other kids who knew how I felt. We learned stuff on how to grieve and I don’t feel that isolated and alone anymore. Now that I am 18 and headed off to college, I want to be there and support those younger kids who are just like I was at 5 years old. I want to give them the same life changing experience I had at TAPS, that chance to wear the red tee shirt, and back pack, and just feel normal for a few days.”

“The help and support TAPS provides to the loved ones of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country is beyond admirable,” Chairman Buck McKeon said. “The programs and resources TAPS offers at no cost have proven to help thousands of survivors all across the nation.”

TAPS is a non-for-profit organization. The TAPS staff is almost completely staffed by volunteers, making up 98 percent of their team. The organization is completely funded by private donors. Not one penny comes from the government, a fact Bonnie is proud of. The TAPS mission is to honor the life and legacy of those who have served in the Armed Forces by providing care to the loved ones left behind.