Arlington Despite being one of the hottest days in the spring so far this year, thousands from all over the country paid tribute to the fallen on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery.
Under the sweltering sun, TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) handed out fans to spectators to keep everyone from developing hyperthermia, as area forecasts warned. TAPS was founded in 1994 in D.C. as a tragedy assistance resource for anyone who has suffered the loss of a military loved one, through comprehensive services and programs including peer based emotional support, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, and grief and trauma resources.
“This special weekend connects survivors of our fallen military with each other, linking widows to widows, mothers to mothers, children to children — where they find people who understand what they are going through,” said Ami Neiberger-Miller, public affairs officer of TAPS. She joined TAPS after losing her brother, U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Neiberger, who was killed in action in Iraq in August 2007.
TAPS is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, seminars, 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. TAPS was founded in 1994 by surviving military families following the deaths of their loved ones in a military plane crash. TAPS has offered comfort and care to more than 35,000 survivor and caregivers since its founding. For more information go to http://www.taps.org">www.taps.org or call the toll-free 24-7 resource and information helpline at 800-959-TAPS.
TAPS members sat together in unity at the Amphitheater. Pat Jenkins from New Jersey spoke of her grandson, Spc Benjamin Moore, a Sapper 693 on the Engineer Corps of the Army. “My daughter calls it his angel-versary and celebration. She started a scholarship fund called the Benjamin Moore S, Fund. It’s amazing how his friends remember him. It always looks like there’s a party from all the trinkets they leave [at his memorial site]. He was a free spirit, that's for sure,” said Jenkins. Not only did he serve his country overseas, but was a hometown hero as an EMT and firefighter.
Some TAPS members are very young, having lost a parent. Wyatt McCain from Alaska recalls his father, Bryant McCain, 1st Sergeant, 1st class who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011. “They called him ‘Johnny Mac.’ He was the leader of the Bobcats,” McCain said. When asked how he remembers his father, he said, “All the fun times ... squirrel hunting, and going on trips ... just me and him.”
Others present at the event have lost their child. Chuck and Twyla Roberts from Oklahoma commemorate their son, Trevor Roberts, who was in the Marine Reserves but got called to duty in Iraq in 2006. He was killed in March of 2007. “His goal in life was to be a foreign missionary ... so we set up the Trevor Roberts Memorial Mission Foundation, using his life insurance to help young adults to go on short term missions trips, like the types of trips Trevor had so often been on as a teenager,” they said. His friends remember his deep faith and say he was already “being the missionary he was called to be in Iraq.”
“That’s how fast life can change, in the blink of an eye. Over here, it might be a firefight or a roadside bomb that makes a normal drive a stir of chaos,” Trevor had written a few months before he was killed. “Things most definitely don’t always work out the way we dream and hope, but we have to keep going, for you never know what tomorrow might bring.”