As Memorial Day weekend approaches, Vice President Mike Pence assured survivors of the fallen that “America will pause, we’ll mourn with those who mourn, grieve with those who grieve.”
“The American people will always, always remember your loved one,” Pence said Friday, speaking at a “Good Grief Camp” gathering of about 500 children whose loved ones died in the military, along with their mentors who are spending time with them this weekend. Pence said he brings “greetings, gratitude and respect” from President Trump.
Pence and his wife Karen helped kick of the 24th year National Military Survivor Seminar, organized by the nonprofit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. During the Memorial Day weekend, the seminar offers a variety of activities, resources, and opportunities to connect for those affected by a death in the military ―– parents, widows and widowers, fiancees, extended family and friends, and others.
“Your loved one’s duty was to serve. Our duty is to remember,” Pence said.
He said he is grateful for “the courageous families who stood with them and stand for them throughout your lives.”
About 2,000 people are attending the event, to include about 875 adults, 500 children and 500 mentors, mostly military members, who are paired with a child during the weekend.
“How deeply humbling and deeply inspiring it is to see your shining faces,” he told the crowd of children, from young school-age children to teens, who often cheered his words.
“My prayer and confidence is that in this weekend, you’ll find comfort, courage and support and community to press on to make your loved ones proud, as I know you will.”
While TAPS offers a variety of services year-round, the weekend seminar is a safe place for the survivors to connect with each other, and help each other, and provides ways for the survivors to remember the life and legacy of the fallen loved ones.
Bonnie Carroll, president and founder of TAPS, said the government does a good job taking care of survivors, but she and others realized early on that the ongoing support of peers is what’s important ― “all of us caring for each other.”
She said she recognized the need after her husband, Army Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, died in an Army C-12 plane crash in 1992.
Part of their core mission is helping each other find “a way to grow after a traumatic loss,” she said.
“We are the broken-hearted band of brothers. ... We’re each other’s battle buddies, and we have been tested under fire.”
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.