ARLINGTON, Va. , May 25, 2012 – When David Lloyd's wife Ann,
died, he hit a level of loneliness he says he never could have
imagined. Today, he stood among some 2,000 people who had been
Ret. Army Lt. Col. David Lloyd, of Newnan, Ga., attends his fourth TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar, May 25, 2012, in Arlington, Va. Lloyd's wife, Army Maj. Ann Lloyd, died while at training in 2006. Lloyd attends the seminars to help his daughters, ages 11 and 19, cope with the loss of their mother. TAPS photo by Jackie Ross
As the Washington area marked the first day of a weekend
teeming with public events commemorating the nation's fallen
service members, some 1,500 adults and 500 children filled
the Crystal Gateway Marriott here in an effort to help
themselves and each other deal with the grief of losing
their very own military heroes.
The 18th Annual TAPS
National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for
Young Survivors offered four days of events to help the
families of those who died while serving in the military
cope with their grief. Sponsored by the nonprofit TAPS –
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors – the seminar
includes numerous sessions for adults and children ranging
from coping with suicide to helping siblings and children to
understanding survivor benefits.“
As the surviving family and friends of members of the armed
forces, we share a very special bond of service and sacrifice to our
nation,” TAPS Founder and President Bonnie Carroll said. “We have in
each other our most powerful resource for comfort and understanding.
This is a safe place to spend time with others who have experienced
a similar loss and understand the pain we all carry.”
Lloyd and his wife, Ann, were soldiers with the 3rd Army Division at
Fort McPherson in Georgia – David, a lieutenant colonel, and Ann a
major. Ann was away at training, preparing to deploy, at Fort
Gordon, Ga., in November 2006 when David got the call that soldiers
there had found her dead in her room from a blood clot.
their two daughters, Rhaynae and Nicole just five and 11 years old,
respectively, and the family living off base with no relatives
nearby, Lloyd quickly decided to retire. “I had a new job then” – as
a full-time father, he said.
The family got by as best they
could, returning to their routines, and some happy times, too, Lloyd
said. But he was concerned that the girls weren't dealing with their
loss at the same time he was trying to figure out his own grief.
It all caught up with him one night shortly before retirement,
Lloyd said. “I was very much alone in the office that night,” he
Lloyd picked up a magazine among the papers on his
desk. “I couldn't even tell you what the magazine was,” he said. “I
just flipped it over and there was TAPS advertised on the back
cover. The ad included a hotline for grief counseling. He didn't
hesitate in picking up the phone. The TAPS volunteer spoke with him
in exactly the way he needed, he said.
“When I called, it
just opened up a new world to me,” he said. “Then I understood I was
not alone. It was just one of those things, one of those defining
moments,” he said.
Lloyd returned to the annual TAPS seminar
for the fourth time this year, mostly for the girls, he said. “It's
therapeutic for them.”
Rhaynae, now 11, looks at it as going
to camp and playing with other children who have lost parents, and
Nicole, now 19, has come a long way in dealing with her grief, Lloyd
said. It was only a year ago that Nicole asked what her mother had
died from. “She just didn't want to know,” he said.
place makes you see the kids in a different light,” Lloyd said. “You
just know the hurt [they're going through], then you see them
laughing and you know this is a great thing.”
also voiced concern that their teens and young adult children also
wouldn't talk about their loss.
When Shelann Clapp's husband,
Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Douglas Clapp, was killed in a
helicopter crash along with Army Brig. Gen. Charles B. Allen and
five other soldiers near Fort Hood, Texas, in 2004, Clapp quickly
sought support with TAPS and other groups, she said.
helped me that I was employed,” said Clapp, who works in education
and is a doctoral student. “I just had to keep going. I didn't know
what else to do.”
Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the
seminar about losing his wife and infant daughter, and how it made
him understand how people can contemplate suicide. Clapp said his
message resonated with her.
“I didn't want to go on; I didn't
know how,” she said. “I was married to this man longer than I had
lived without him.”
While Clapp worked through her grief, her
then 18-year-old daughter, Jennifer, did not. “She kept telling me
she didn't want to talk about it. She was angry, but she couldn't
The Clapps marked a milestone today when Jennifer,
now 27, attended the seminar for the first time with her mother.
After just one day of TAPS, Jennifer said she was glad she attended.
“I never really dealt with it,” she said of losing her father,
but being at the seminar forced her to think about it and realize
she wasn't alone. Jennifer said she felt better about her loss when
she met a mother of three young children on a Metro train this
morning. The woman's husband, a service member, recently died.
“It really opens your eyes about what people are going through,”
Jennifer said. “You think you're the only one it's happened to, then
you meet others who have it just as bad.”
“We're very much
about survivors helping survivors,” said TAPS spokeswoman Ami
Neiberger-Miller, whose brother was killed in action in Iraq in
2007. “We find people come, first for themselves, then they come for
others,” she said of TAPS mentoring program.
Kitty and Bob Conant, of Valencia, Calif.,
attend the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar, May 25, 2012, in
Arlington, Va. Their son, Army Sgt. John Conant, died in 2008. TAPS photo
by Jackie Ross
Bob and Kitty Conant attended the seminar for the first time this
year, and went through mentor training. They said they hope to help
other grieving families by being TAPS mentors. “It's about coming
alongside them and listening and being there for them,” Kitty said.
The couple, from Valencia, Calif., said their religious faith
has gotten them through the loss of their son, John, an Army
sergeant, who died of an undiagnosed heart condition, miocardial
arythmia, on April 10, 2008.
“He just had a duty station
change and he's serving the supreme commander now,” Kitty Conant
said of her son's death. “He just went before us.”
Conant, the second of four boys, three of whom serve in
the military, had been in the
Army 15 years and completed two deployments to Iraq and one to Haiti
when he died suddenly. While his heart problems were unknown, he had
been battling post-traumatic stress and seemed to have turned a
corner in the months before his death. He had started calling again,
having long conversations with his parents, and reconnecting with
his brothers, one of whom he had started to bond with in their
shared PTSD and combat experiences. John found out two days before
his death that he had been cleared to return to Iraq, his parents
While John's death was a shock, the Conants say they are
content in knowing that he died doing what he loved. “He had
wanted to be a soldier since he was a Cub Scout,” his mother
said. “That was his dream.”
Ellen Andrews, TAPS
Defense Department liaison, said participants find a bond
that lasts years. “This is like a family reunion for us,”
she said. “This is the group no one wants to belong to, but
we're so glad it's here.”
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
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