Families of our fallen military don't have to grieve alone, they can find peer support and help at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). The organization's efforts to help survivors left behind following a death in the military were saluted at the annual TAPS Honor Guard Gala held in April 2012.
General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, delivered a keynote address before the more than 600 guests. More than 50 surviving family members of our fallen military, including people who've lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, attended. CNN anchor Kyra Phillips emceed the event.
General James F. Amos, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, was honored with the annual TAPS Military Leadership Award, for his lifetime commitment to support for surviving families of our fallen military. The award was presented by Bob Bagosy, of Cumming, Ga. and Katherine Bagosy, of Bluffton, S.C. The Bagosys are the surviving father and widow, respectively, of Marine Sergeant Thomas Bagosy, who died by suicide at Camp LeJeune in 2010. General Amos has worked to encourage troops with mental health issues to seek help and supported the family members left behind.
Congressman Norm Dicks, of Washington's sixth district, was presented with the Congressional Award. He chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, and served for 29 years as a member of this subcommittee, where he has played a critical role in ensuring our nation provides support and care for its military service members and their families. The award was presented by Ashley Martin, of Tacoma, Wash., widow of Army Staff Sergeant Jack Mayfield Martin III. Sergeant Martin was based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Wash., and was killed in action in 2009 in the Philippines while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Erin Gallagher, 18, of Lynbrook, N.Y., a teen who lost her father, US Marine Gunnery Sergeant James Gallagher, to suicide in 2006, was honored with the Senator Ted Stevens Leadership Award. Gallagher has delivered speeches addressing suicide in the military, spoken with the media and supported other children and teens through TAPS who are grieving the death of a loved one who served in the military. Inaugurated in 2011, the Ted Stevens Leadership Award recognizes a surviving family member of our fallen military who has reached out to help others.
Autumn Letendre, of McCordsville, Ind., sang "Raise Your Flag" to conclude the night. Letendre is the surviving widow of Marine Reserve Captain Brian Letendre, who died in action in Iraq in 2006. He grew up in Northern Virginia.
The TAPS Honor Guard Gala raises funds to assist TAPS programs that provide comfort and care for families of our fallen military. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, case work assistance and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for all who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces. Services are provided free of charge through donations made by citizens, corporations and foundations. For more information go to www.taps.org or call the toll-free helpline at 800.959.TAPS (8277).
Video footage courtesy of the Pentagon Channel.