During the Good Grief Camp, March 15-17, 131 service members and veterans from around the Fort Hood area volunteered to mentor 123 child survivors at Duncan Elementary School. Each child was given his or her own mentor during the camp.
Training for volunteers was held on Friday, prior to the Good Grief Camp kick off Saturday morning, where child survivors were greeted by their mentors and broken up into seven different groups depending on their age.
The camp, hosted by Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors with support from the Fort Hood Survivor Outreach Services, offered classes and activities for adult and child survivors.
Sgt. Sarah Vanterpool, attached to Golf Forward Support Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, shared that although she is married and does not have kids, she volunteered as a mentor as a way to give back to children in the community.
“At the end of the day, they just get to have their voices heard,” Vanterpool said.
Vanterpool said that although she was “voluntold” her first year to be a Good Grief Camp mentor, she came back for the second time this year on her own.
“It was the best experience ever,” Vanterpool said. “It makes me feel great – like amazing.”
Vanterpool believes that volunteering for the TAPS Good Grief Camp is beneficial.
“If everyone in the Army could do it, I would say do it,” Vanterpool said.
Diana Wright, TAPS director of youth and adult programs, shared that while her husband was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, she had attended an event hosted by TAPS. Wright said that before leaving JBLM, her best friend’s husband, an Army first sergeant, committed suicide. After arriving at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Wright said she received an email from TAPS that they needed camp mentors.
“I just found so much joy in being able to be present for somebody who’s grieving,” Wright said.
Wright said that the Good Grief Camp, along with other TAPS events, take place in various locations.
“We are camp in a box,” Wright said. “Because our survivors are all over the country – actually all over the world.”
Wright said TAPS has a good relationship with the Fort Hood SOS.
“This is the only Army installation that takes care of us like this,” Wright said. “This is the only place we come where it’s like ‘what do you need?’”
The Fort Hood SOS mission is to provide survivor advocacy for as long as they prefer said Kent Brickman, Fort Hood SOS Wounded and Fallen branch manager. Brickman said the Fort Hood SOS is responsible for survivors in 175 counties and hosting 21 events this year. Brickman said within the closest eight counties to Fort Hood, there are 640 active survivors.
“So, especially initially, it’s hard to concentrate, you have so much stress, so extremely, but at that same time, you have to be given so much information and try to plan …,” Brickman said. “But it’s hard to take all that in – to be able to digest that mentally.”
“There is a true need for what we provide and as long as I’m able – I’m going to fulfill that need,” Wright said.
TAPS has been a private non-profit organization since 1994. TAPS’ mission is to provide assistance, programs and resources to Family members, children, spouses, friends and fiancés after the loss of a loved one who died as a result of his, or her service. TAPS provides support 24/7.
For more information on TAPS visit, www.taps.org.