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Families of fallen soldiers travel to Alaska to heal

By Charlo Greene 7:57 PM February 27, 2014

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors helps mourning military families grieve and move forward

GIRDWOOD - Four Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson soldiers have died this month. For each of their families, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors is there to offer support.

“When that casualty officer knocks on the door, family is told they will not be alone, that there will be support and comfort and care, that TAPS will be there for them,” said TAPS founder and president Bonnie Carroll. ”Today, out of that humble beginning in Anchorage, Alaska, TAPS now has 50,000 family members that rely on our support and care.”

About 50 people from all across the nation gathered at Alyeska Resort Thursday for igloo building, snowshoeing and dog sledding as a way to work through their grief.

“There’s so much healing there and they meet so many people that are going through the same thing,” said Shirley Quickley-Green.

Quickley-Green of Richmond, Va., has one thing in common with the 50 others gathered at Alyeska Resort by TAPS. Loss. Her son, Army Specialist James Elliott Quickley, died in December 2005. Since then, she’s run marathons, attended retreats and reached out to help others grieving though TAPS.

“For these four days, for these parents from all over America who are grieving a fallen hero,” Carroll said. “The opportunity to take off that body armor and just be — to hug, to laugh, to cry, to share — is extraordinary.”

Everyone gathered at the TAPS retreat in Girdwood is a survivor who has lost a child, parent, sibling or spouse serving our nation’s military.

But instead of wallowing in their grief, they’re using recreational therapy to work through it.

“We’re sharing our loved ones and the memories and everybody knows what you’re going through, so yeah, it’s really special,” said Patti Kenner, mother of fallen Marine Sgt. Kenneth Daniel Reich. ”I thank God for Bonnie every day.”

TAPS was born through Bonnie Carroll’s personal tragedy here in Alaska. Carroll lost both her father and her husband who served our nation’s military.

“My husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll was killed in a National Guard plane crash here in 1992,” Carroll said. “From his loss, TAPS was born.”

While tears and sadness are welcome without judgment, it was joy and laughter commemorating the sacrifice and service of our fallen heroes at the TAPS retreat today.

“There’s nothing more healing than just to meet another person, to know that you’re not alone, that you’re not going crazy, that there is support and comfort and care,” Carroll said.

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