Military family members who have lost a loved one due to the service of our country are gathering together on Fort Hood this weekend for the Texas Regional Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp.
Central Texas News Now's Brooke Bednarz spoke with several whose loved ones gave the ultimate sacrifice about how the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) organization is helping them through their grief.
A song played at each and every one of their loved one's funerals, and now a group they wish they never had a reason to be a part of.
"We have no doubt that our heroes are looking down from Heaven and very proud of the families here who are reaching out to each other to continue that service," Bonnie Carroll, the founder and president of TAPS said.
Bonnie Carroll started TAPS after her husband died in a military plane crash.
"The military is a culture, and at TAPS, we bring together all those who have suffered loss, regardless of how that loss occurred because it isn't about the moment of the death, it's about the years of the life. It's about the fact that their loved one stepped forward to serve this country," Carroll added.
"At TAPS, it's a peer-based program where we're able to provide support and services to one another. So, for me, I find a great way to honor my brother's legacy is through service," Gabriel Rao, brother of the late Sergeant Elijah Rao and TAPS Manager of Community Engagement, said.
"Last year alone, nearly 6,000 newly bereaved military family members came to TAPS for care," Carroll said.
A type of care only one going through their type of loss and grief could truly provide.
"It's not something we can take a pill for or put a bandage on. Grief is a wound of the heart, and for me, to be with hundreds of other families who understand my loss as I understand theirs, it is absolutely, incredibly healing," Carroll added.
Cindy Hildner is the wife of the late Brigader General Terence Hildner who was stationed at Fort Hood but deployed to Afghanistan at the time of his death.
"That was actually the last picture we took before he deployed. It was the last time we were together," Cindy Hildner said.
Hildner says even though it's been six years, returning to Fort Hood is difficult, but the TAPS retreats are worth it.
"It's almost like I can breathe again, you know... still gasping a little bit because my whole life turned upside down," Hildner added.
Hildner and nearly five hundred other parents, spouses and children will be sharing, loving and healing together at Fort Hood this weekend.
"They are honoring their hero, just as their hero honored them," Carroll said.
For more information on TAPS, click here.
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