Commentary

How you can support the survivors of a military loss

Honoring all who have served and died, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) stands ready 24/7 with comfort, care, and resources for all those grieving the death of a military loved one.

Since our country’s founding, Americans have lived with the natural consequences of the meaning behind service and sacrifice. War inevitably results in immediate separation of families and friends, visible and invisible wounds, and death and loss. As a nation, we recognize the cost of war with national days to commemorate the brave men and women who have served and who have served and died. We build monuments to their service and sacrifice. As a country, we recognize the cost of war and have programs and services established to support the military community to do what they do best: defend our freedom. As a community, we recognize the cost of war and respond immediately to help our service members and their families with military discounts, fundraisers, donations, meal trains, care packages, and beautiful cards of sentiment and gratitude.

However, the cost of war is not always immediate, nor does it always make the news. Each day, TAPS is welcoming an average of 24 new military survivors in search of help, hope, and healing following the death of their military loved one. Twenty-four new survivors each day is the largest daily average since the founding of TAPS in 1994. Since 2013, the leading cause of death among all new survivors connecting with TAPS has been suicide. Now, in 2021, we see the leading cause of death among new survivors to be deaths due to illnesses (32 percent) followed by deaths due to suicide (26 percent*). Trends among new survivors reflect that many were caregivers to their loved ones who lived with invisible wounds, traumatic brain injuries, and rare or aggressive forms of cancer before passing.

Among the 24 new survivors connecting with TAPS each day, approximately 23 percent are children under 18, and 46 percent of all newly connected children are within their first year of loss. TAPS is bearing witness and providing support to military survivors across generations living with broken hearts.

For nearly 100,000 of our nation’s survivors, the circumstances of their loved one’s death doesn’t change how they learn to live with their broken hearts. TAPS can help them to heal. Since 1994, TAPS has provided 24/7 support to everyone grieving the death of their loved one who served in our nation’s armed services regardless of how, when, or where they died. All military survivors are welcome with TAPS to honor and remember the lives of our military loved ones and the service they gave to protect our freedom.

To learn more about the challenges faced by military loss survivors and how you can support them, please visit www.taps.org/support.

*Numbers may alter upon connection with survivors and official determination of the cause of death.

Dr. Chantel Dooley is director of TAPS research and impact assessment.

Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, haltman@militarytimes.com.

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