TAPS seminar honors Families
Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News EditorLuz Ulloa, 11, misses her father every day.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Marine Sgt. George Ulloa Jr., died Aug. 3, 2006, in Al Anbar province, Iraq, from injuries sustained when his tank was hit by a roadside bomb.
Although she and her sister lost their father, Luz gained an entire network of support. That network came together July 19-Saturday at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel to remember and share their losses, but also to laugh and bond with others during Fort Hood’s annual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Good Grief Camp and Survivors Seminar.
Luz and her sister, Rosa, 7, were among about 400 Family members and loved ones of fallen service members who attended the three-day event.
A national nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., TAPS offers immediate and long-term support and programs for loved ones who have lost a service member, regardless of the manner of the death or their relationship to the deceased. TAPS was founded in 1994 by Bonnie Carroll following the loss of her husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, in an Army plane crash.
Loved ones and Family members gathered from across the nation to participate in the seminar and meet others who share their loss. One Family drove to Fort Hood from Maine to attend the weekend seminar.
“This was the last place their Soldier was stationed,” Sheri Beck, manager TAPS survivor care programs at Fort Hood, said. “This is where they are comfortable, where they can relate to the military.”
The location helps bring them together, but it is in the company of each other that the Families find the most comfort and healing.
Paired with a trained Soldier-mentor, children and teens participated in age-appropriate activities to help cope with grief, manage their feelings and bond together.
Jaisha Haynes, 18, and her stepsister Linnajha Ward, 16, attended the Fort Hood seminar in memory of their
father and stepfather, Staff Sgt. Rodric Haynes, who died Jan. 28, 2009, from an illness.
“I like TAPS because I can just let go,” Jaisha said. “It helped me come out of my shell, because no one is going to judge you.”
Both teens agreed that attending TAPS seminars have helped them open up about their father and stepfather.
“It’s easier to let go and talk about it,” Jaisha said.
Linnajha said she gets an emotional release attending TAPS events.
“It’s a good way to share feelings,” she said.
The Survivors Seminar hosted workshops for adults to help them cope with grief and issues that can arise following the death of a loved one. Parents, spouses and other loved ones were offered group workshops catered to their relationship to the deceased.
Malia Fry has attended TAPS events for the past six years.
Her husband, Marine Gunnery Sgt. John D. Fry, was killed March 8, 2006, by an improvised explosive device in Al Anbar province, Iraq.
Since the gunnery sergeant’s death, Malia has focused her energy on helping others. She started the Fry Scholarship, which provides 36 months of college tuition and fees to children of active-duty members of the Armed Forces who have died in the line of duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
Malia also works at the Fort Hood TAPS office, helping others who have lost a service member. This year, she was a workshop facilitator. Helping other Families has been therapeutic for Malia.
“I find it very rewarding,” she said. “It’s more healing to help others, but also more exhausting.”
For Malia, TAPS has been one way to meet other widows who live nearby.
“Just knowing they are there helps,” she said.
At the end of the event, adults and youth wrote letters and messages to their loved one.
Those messages were tied to balloons and released at the end of Saturday with one final message – “I love you.”
Luz’s letter to her father was one of reassurance.
“I miss you so much,” she wrote, “but I don’t feel alone anymore because of the friends I made and the mentor I