Gala Honors Survivor Assistance Program Supporters
(April 9, 2011)
Cierra Becker presents Navy
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, with an appreciation award at the
annual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
Honor Guard Gala in Washington, D.C., April 5,
2011. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st
Class Chad J. McNeeley
WASHINGTON, April 6, 2011 – Crystal Becker felt
lost when her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Shane R.
Becker, died when his unit came under enemy
attack near Baghdad in April 2007. She knew she
would eventually come to terms with her grief,
but feared for her two daughters -- a 7-year-old
whose world revolved around her daddy and a
newborn who could never know him.
found her solace in the
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or
TAPS, a program committed to providing emotional
support and services to grieving military
families. She and her girls have become regulars
at TAPS' military survivor seminars and Good
Grief Camps as they share their feelings with
other military families struggling with their
“You could offer my daughter
Disney World or Disneyland and she would say no,
she wants to go to TAPS,” Becker said of her
oldest daughter, Cierra, now age 11. “We go
every year, and every time there's crying and
pain and hurt. But it
doesn't overshadow the greatness that this new
family we have found has to offer.”
Last night, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, joined Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton
A. Schwartz and Veterans Affairs Secretary and former Army
Chief of Staff Eric K. Shinseki in praising the program that
has brought so much comfort to so many military families.|
Speaking at TAPS' annual Honor Guard Gala held at the
Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium here, Mullen called TAPS a
“world-class organization that in so many ways sets the gold
standard” in serving families struggling to deal with the
loss of a loved one.
Mullen recalled the Vietnam War
days, when no similar programs were available for military
families. The chairman said he's gratified that so many
Vietnam veterans and their children have reached out as
supporters and mentors to this generation's military
families during their time of need.
“I only say that
as a reminder that I don't think we will ever be done here,”
Mullen said. “I think we need to keep pushing the envelope
of support for the families of the fallen in ways that we
often times haven't thought about.”
from a trip to Boise, Idaho, where he and his wife, Deborah,
met with 13 families of the fallen, Mullen said he asked a
mother who had lost her son in Iraq what he could do to
help. Her response was, “Please don't ever forget... Please
don't let our country forget.”
“It is a reminder
about our responsibility to those who have sacrificed so
much for all of us -- to say with emphasis [and] to make
sure we absolutely never, ever forget their sacrifices,”
Mullen told the group.
Mullen thanked Bonnie Carroll,
president and founder of TAPS, the donors and volunteers who
help ensure its success and the surviving families with
living up to that promise.
“Thank you for remembering
and moving forward with courage,” the chairman said.
Shinseki was honored last night with the annual TAPS
Military Leadership Award for his lifetime commitment of
supporting surviving families of the fallen while in uniform
and now as VA secretary.
Accepting the award on
behalf of America's 22,000 veterans and the VA, Shinseki
lauded the TAPS program for its support for families of the
fallen, and the example these families provide.
the survivor families and their children, we are blessed to
witness the quality of your strength [and] your grace as you
deal with the adjustments in your life,” Shinseki said. “You
provide great motivation to all of us. Thank you for the
model of strength and grace that you provide to all of us.”
Mullen, Shinseki and Schwartz all held high praise for
the late Sen. Ted Stevens, the recipient of this year's TAPS
Congressional Award. Stevens was a staunch supporter of
military men and women, and he was instrumental in helping
to establish TAPS in 1994, Carroll said.
remembrance of that contribution, TAPS awarded the first
annual TAPS Ted Stevens Leadership Award to a TAPS survivor,
Dolan is the widow of Navy Capt. Bob
Dolan Jr., who died during the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the
Pentagon. Since her husband's death, Dolan has served as a
peer mentor through TAPS to help other military widows,
raised and trained therapy dogs to comfort grieving military
children and worked tirelessly to raise funds for the
Pentagon's 9/11 Memorial.
“Lisa has been a true
leader in the survivor community, and we are honored to
recognize her efforts tonight,” Carroll said.
program concluded with a group of children from TAPS
programs waving goodnight to the attendees as Nashville
recording artist Barry Michael performed the original song,
“Heroes and Angels.”
The TAPS Honor Guard Gala raises
funds to support the organization's programs, including
peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources,
case work assistance and a 24/7 resource and information
helpline for all who have been affected by a death in the
armed forces. This year's gala raised a record $1.1 million
for TAPS programs and services.
services are provided free of charge through donations from
corporations, foundations and private citizens.
Article and photo by Donna Miles|
American Forces Press Service
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