Memorial Day: TAPS supports grieving military families

With Memorial Day weekend upon us, the holiday will be especially important for military families as they remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.{ }

“My husband was Jack Martin. He was in the Army. He was in Special Forces. He was the medic. He was killed September 29, 2009,” said Ashley Martin, mentor.

Martin’s wife, Ashley, is now helping other military families cope with their grief over losing a loved one, by sharing her own story.

“Throughout the loss, so many people had tried to be there for me and tried to connect with me, but I thought no one else understood,” Ashley said.

But thanks to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Ashley got through the tough times with the help of another widow. Now{ }she’s working with the organization to let others know they’re not alone.

“They are there to facilitate, to help, to encourage them, to open up if they want to open up,” said James Gobble, TAPS group leader.

Memorial Day weekend marks the 18th{ }annual TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors, which is open to anyone who’s facing the challenges of losing a service member and for{ }those who want to serve as mentors.

At age 7, Cierra Becker lost her father in Iraq and found comfort in her mentor, James Gobble.

“It was somebody else that I could tell the stories to that didn't know him yet and would enjoy the fact that I could talk about him,” Becker said.

“My motivation is honoring that person who died, whoever that might be, and making a difference in one child's life,” Gobble said.

The two met three years ago and still keep in touch every week. It’s just one special bond that forms from these gatherings.

About 500 children, between the ages of 4 and 18, will be in town on Friday and each of them will be paired up with a mentor.

“After the staff and group leaders talk to them a little bit and recognize the issues with the children, they gravitate right toward each other,” Gobble said.

On Thursday, mentors spend the day in workshops learning how to communicate over sensitive topics.

This holiday weekend will be filled with conversations and support, ending with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Monday.