The Fort Hood Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors held its fifth annual Regional Grief Seminar for adults and a Good Grief Camp for children July 19-20.
More than 160 Fort Hood soldiers serving as mentors offered emotional support to 150 children who have lost a loved one serving in the military.
Pfc. Vanessa Holguin, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, said serving as a mentor was her way of honoring those who have served and making sure the families know they’re not alone.
“These little kids are so strong,” Holguin said. “It’s breathtaking to see how ... strong they are.”
The seminar and camp were held separately to allow adults and children to grieve with those who may have experienced the same situation.
“Oftentimes when the children are with their parents, they both try and protect each other,” said Tina Saari, TAPS director of Regional Programs and Military Installations. “A child often doesn’t want the surviving parent to know the pain they are feeling so they mask it or try to protect them while the parent does the same.”
Saari said the Good Grief Camp provides a safe environment for children to be around others who lost a parent or sibling, allowing them to grieve together.
The adults are able to go through many different workshops helping them cope with their grief or fun activities like crafts, yoga, Zumba and line dancing.
“They also attend sharing sessions specific to their relationship to the fallen military member,” Saari said.
Kids who participated in the TAPS Good Grief Camp were able to take advantage of different activities including sharing something about their heroes and their loss, working through their emotions and grief, learning coping skills and support networks, and learning to move forward while remembering and honoring their hero.
The kids were able to make stress balls, throw water balloons at their feelings and emotions chart and take time to safely express their emotions.
Surviving family members and mentors wrote letters to their fallen heroes and sent them off via balloon.
“It signifies a release of connecting with their loved one after the weekend,” Saari said. “Sometimes it is a goodbye letter or simply a message or note of love and missing their hero.”
The seminar and camp ended with a fun night complete with a barbecue, dunk tank, bounce house and military static displays.
For more information on TAPS or to find the next outreach event, go to www.taps.org.