PDA

View Full Version : TAPS helps families of fallen heroes connect



thedrifter
04-25-09, 08:31 AM
News
TAPS helps families of fallen heroes connect

Saturday, April 25, 2009

By Linda May, Macomb Daily Columnist

Mary Manoukian Calhoun's son, U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Nicholas Manoukian, died in Ramadi, Iraq, on Oct. 21, 2006. Nick was 22. He and other Marines died in an improvised explosive device incident.

Manoukian Calhoun bonds with others who have had a military loss through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS. The TAPS Michigan group began nearly two years ago and meets on the first Thursday of the month at the Lathrup Village City Building at 27400 Southfield Road. Off and on, Macomb County families attend.

"We start around 6:30 p.m. and provide a light dinner first as most people come straight from work and some come from as far as Chelsea and farther. It's the only TAPS group so far in Michigan," Calhoun said.

"After my son Nick was killed, I realized the huge need for a group such as this. I'm so grateful for all the support that I found through TAPS-DC knowing that I can call any time and someone really cares and will listen. I called the VA for some support but being that they are so short-staffed, I found none," she said.

Anyone who would like information about TAPS Michigan may call Manoukian Calhoun at (248) 559-0483. TAPS' national office is in Washington, D.C. Phone numbers and Web site are: (800) 959-TAPS or (202) 588-TAPS (8277) and www.taps.org.

TAPS has free ongoing peer-based emotional support to anyone who is grieving the death of a loved one who served in the military. It brings survivors together for strength, sharing journeys through the grief process, comfort, healing and hope. TAPS sponsors grief seminars for adults and "Good Grief Camps" for children.

Its services include grief and trauma resources, case work assistance and continuous crisis intervention, regardless of the circumstance of the death, relationship to the deceased, or geography.

Since 1994, TAPS has worked with more than 25,000 surviving family members, casualty assistance officers, chaplains and others supporting bereaved military families whose loved ones died by suicide during or after military service, in plane crashes and training accidents, as well as in war zones.

For each active duty military loss, 10 people, on average, are significantly impacted by the death. They are parents, spouses or fiances/fiancees, siblings and other relatives, and friends.

About 50,000 people are directly affected by the casualties from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom alone.

The 15th annual TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors will be on Memorial Day weekend, May 22-25, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md. Children of all ages, from all over the nation, go to the camp to honor their military loved ones. Volunteer mentors include members of the Honor Guard who perform burials at Arlington National Cemetery.

Manoukian Calhoun was also a member of Michigan Military Moms, a group that supports their deployed family members and each other. A Michigan Military Families group meets at the Veterans Support Center in Roseville. Call (586) 776-9810 for information.

"TAPS is a place for everyone to come and share, and talk about their loved one, and honor them," she said. "It helps to talk to other people, hear different stories, something you can relate to that might help, or they've read a book that gave them some comfort. I have to honor my son's decision to join the Marines, but I have so many questions.

"Every time I go to the cemetery, someone has left a pot of tulips or something and it gives me peace to know that my son is not forgotten. We want our kids to be remembered. Nick was my life," she said.

She said shortly before her son, an only child, left for what was his second deployment in Iraq, he had married a young woman he knew in high school. She had a son.

"Nick wanted to adopt the little boy. He got to be step-daddy for only six weeks before he died," she said. "Somehow you learn to live with it. The pain is always there, but it gets a little softer."

Recently she was cleaning out a cupboard and found a Mother's Day card from her son.

"He always signed them 'Love, Your Son, Nick,'" she said. "It makes me smile."

Posthumously honored

Four Michigan men were among 123 from the Vietnam War era honored posthumously last week during the annual In Memory Day ceremony. The ceremony pays tribute to those who died prematurely from non-combat injuries and emotional suffering caused directly by the Vietnam War, but who are not eligible to have their names inscribed on the Washington, D.C., Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

They are: Leo Peter Allen of Sterling Heights, Russell Denton Coleman of Deford, Terrance Clay Kemp of Howell and Kenneth Jarman of Niles.

About a thousand family members and friends attended the 11th annual ceremony sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to "provide a healing environment."

Family members read their loved one's name aloud, in chronological order by date of death, and laid tributes at the base of the monument corresponding to the honoree's dates of service in Vietnam, "so that these Vietnam veterans come to rest near those comrades with whom they served."

More than 1,800 people are now on the In Memory honor roll. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial names 58,260 people who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces in the Vietnam War. "Mother's Day at The Wall" is on May 10 and there will be a Memorial Day observance on May 25.

Send service club and veterans news to: Linda May c/o The Macomb Daily, 100 Macomb Daily Drive, Mount Clemens MI 48046; or lindamay@ameritech.net. Phone/fax (586) 791-8116.

Ellie