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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2015  12:54:57 AM

Fort Hood Soldiers assist grieving loved ones; serve as mentors

Email   Print   Share By Capt. Angel Jackson, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs
July 25, 2013 | News
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Fort Hood Soldiers assist grieving loved ones; serve as mentors (Photo by Capt. Angel Jackson, 1st BCT Public Affairs)
Fort Hood’s Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors held its fifth annual Regional Grief Seminar for adults and a Good Grief Camp for children, Friday and Saturday.

More than 160 Fort Hood Soldiers serving as mentors offered emotional support to 150 kids who have lost a loved one serving in the armed forces.

Pfc. Vanessa Holguin, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 7th “Garryowen” Cavalry Regiment, 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, said serving as a mentor was her way of honoring those who have served and making sure the Families know they’re not alone.

“These little kids are so strong,” Holguin said. “It’s breathtaking to see how … strong they are.”

The seminar and camp are held separately to allow adults and children to grieve with their peers.

“Oftentimes when the children are with their parents, they both try and protect each other,” explained Tina Saari, TAPS director of Regional Programs and Military Installations. “A child often doesn’t want the surviving parent to know the pain they are feeling so they mask it or try to protect them while the parent does the same.”

Saari said the Good Grief Camp provides a safe environment for children to be around others who lost a parent or sibling, allowing them to grieve together.

Adults participated in workshops helping them cope with their grief and activities like crafts, yoga, Zumba and line dancing.

“They also attend sharing sessions specific to their relationship to the fallen military member,” Saari added.

Children particpated in activities including sharing something about their hero and their loss, working through their emotions and grief, learning coping skills and support networks, and moving forward while remembering and honoring their hero. They made stress balls, threw water balloons at a feelings and emotions chart and learned to safely express emotions.

Surviving Family members and mentors wrote letters to their fallen hero and sent them off via balloon.

“It signifies a release of connecting with their loved one after the weekend,” Saari explained. “Sometimes it is a goodbye letter or simply a message or note of love and missing their hero.”

The seminar and camp ended with a fun night complete with a barbecue, dunk tank, bounce house and military static displays.

Editor’s note: Additional coverage of the TAPS event can be found in the Living Section, page C1.
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