No words can express my appreciation to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and Bonnie Carroll’s vision to care for Gold Star families, caregivers, and mentors. Six months after my Army Ranger son, Sgt. First Class Kristoffer Domeij was killed in Afghanistan, I attended my first TAPS Grief Seminar. Still hijacked by shock, my brain barely functioned. I walked into a room filled with other survivors and thought, This feels oddly comforting. All these people understand, I don’t have to explain why I haven’t “moved on.” Not only did they call me to see if I was okay, they assigned a wonderful mentor, another Gold Star mom, to help me navigate through that first year. I’m delighted to share:
Washington, D.C. – The White House announced today that President Obama will present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bonnie Carroll, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) President and Founder, in a ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 24. The Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Carroll founded TAPS following the death of her husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, in an Army C-12 plane crash in 1992. In its 21 years, TAPS has honored all those who have died in service to our country by caring for the more than 50,000 surviving family members left behind.
Carroll currently serves on the Defense Health Board and the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, and has served on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation, the Board of Directors of the Association of Death Education and Counseling, the Department of Defense (DOD) Military Family Readiness Council and, recently, she co-chaired the DOD Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide in the Armed Forces. Carroll retired as a Major in the Air Force Reserve where she has served as Chief, Casualty Operations, HQ USAF. Prior to joining the USAFR, Maj. Carroll served 16 years in the Air National Guard as a Transportation Officer, Logistics Officer and Executive Officer and served in Baghdad, Iraq, as a Department of the Army Civilian. She is a member of the American Association for Death Education and Counseling, on the Board of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and author of “Healing Your Grieving Military Heart.”
For interview scheduling or questions, please call 800.959.TAPS (8277) or email email@example.com.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. TAPS has offered support to more than 50,000 surviving family members of our fallen military and their caregivers since 1994. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, grief seminars and retreats for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, online and in-person support groups 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.
FOR JOURNALISTS: PREPARING YOURSELF TO SPEAK WITH SURVIVORS
We recommend any member of the media who is speaking with the family of someone who has died while serving in the military, review guidelines from the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma for speaking with trauma survivors.
Resources for Reporters – Reporting on Suicide
Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma – Reporting on Suicide
Poynter – Reporting on Suicide
FOR FAMILIES: RESOURCES TO HELP FAMILIES TALK WITH THE MEDIA
Resources from Workshop on Sharing Your Story When It Involves the Suicide of a Loved One
ABOUT OUR FAMILIES AND MEDIA COVERAGE
Our families did not ask to become public figures when they suffered the death of someone they love. Yet a death in service to country carries public meaning, and often involves public mourning. Many families, in the immediate hours and days after the deaths of their loved ones when they are vulnerable and planning a funeral, are also asked to speak in sound bites and provide photos to the media. Some families use this opportunity to share the story of their loved one’s life and service, and use the media to distribute information to the community about how to contribute to a memorial fund or honor their loved one.
Some of our families carry scars from their initial interactions with the media during the days immediately following their loved one’s death. Others navigated the media interest that may have surrounded their loved one’s death with shakiness and entrusted others to help (or not) with this, and didn’t return calls from the media because they were overwhelmed with other needs. Still others were silent toward the media, out of fear of what others might think of how their loved one died, and buried their loved one without even an obituary.
Many surviving families are open to sharing the story of their loved ones. But often, time is needed to allow them to gather their thoughts, and reflect on their experience. Unfortunately, we sometimes receive requests from journalists asking to speak with the family of “the most recent loss possible.” We do not honor these requests and do not call families in the immediate days after someone has died.
In the immediate days and months after their loss, research has shown that family members of those who have died by suicide, are often least able to offer helpful causal information about what led to their loved one’s death.Identifying what contributes to a death by suicide is often complicated and takes time. Research shows presenting suicide in the media as an inexplicable act, can actually encourage an increase in suicides.Consequently, an emphasis on immediacy, can be detrimental to good reporting on suicide and actually cause harm.
Families who are typically best able and best equipped psychologically to not be re-traumatized by a media interview, are those who are at least a year beyond their own loss. We will assist reporters who are reaching out to a family in a respectful way to do a thoughtful story.
DOCUMENTARY FILM, BOOK & PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECTS
TAPS regularly receives inquiries from documentary film makers, book authors and photographers seeking to do projects about the families of the fallen. To help with screening these partnership requests and evaluating them efficiently, we ask those proposing new projects to fill out and submit a questionnaire. Send your completed questionnaire to firstname.lastname@example.org.