Washington Capitals welcome TAPS

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) - The Kettler Ice Rink looked busy as usual this week. But, the people skating on it are anything but ordinary. From the youngest to the oldest, everyone on the ice has lost loved ones in military battle.

“My older son lost his dad when he was only a year and a half,” Nicki Bunting said. “I was pregnant with my second son when I lost my husband, so he never got to meet his father.”

While some never got the chance to meet that special person, others, like Kyle Balduf, grew up with theirs. Balduf’s twin brother was killed in action in 2011; a tragedy the 30 year old still struggles to understand.

“I think the most difficult thing was I hadn't really thought about the fact that we were twins,” Balduf said. “Now, I’m an only child.”

Through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Balduf met a friend who too had lost a sibling. Now roommates, they developed a different kind of brotherhood—in each other.

“It’s really hard to put into words, and maybe can’t,” James Bubeck said. “But, it really is just a deep, almost visceral bond where you just feel almost like family."

Thanks to the Capitals that extended family is even larger. Team USA-bound John Carlson credits these survivors as the true American heroes.

“These people do it way better than me putting on my skates and playing in the Olympics.”