By Iuliana Petre
Killeen Daily Herald
On the morning of May 21, 2007, at 7:30 a.m. her time, Taryn Davis, of San Marcos, chatted via instant messenger with her husband, Michael, who was deployed to Iraq with Alpha Company, 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, out of Fort Richardson, Alaska.
"Baby, I love you more than life itself. Try to get back safe," Taryn typed to her husband.
He said he would do his best.
Sometime after 11 that night, Taryn received a phone call from a friend and neighbor, asking her to come back home. There were people there who needed to speak to Taryn, her friend said.
At that point, Taryn said she knew what it meant.
In an interview with the Daily Herald last week, Taryn recounted the events that occurred after she arrived back at the house.
"Waiting at the door were two soldiers. One of them was shaking," Taryn said.
Then one of them said: "The secretary of defense regrets to inform you ..."
Those words are still burned into Taryn's mind. They are words that she said will always be burned into the minds of military widows.
Taryn recalls her shock – she cursed the soldiers, she fell to the ground, she was dry heaving.
Her husband died in Baghdad that day when a roadside bomb detonated beneath his vehicle. The bomb claimed not only Michael's life but two other soldiers' lives as well. A fourth soldier was paralyzed, and a fifth underwent major reconstructive surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
"It was kind of a blur, a whirlwind," Taryn said, referring to her life after finding out about her husband's death.
"You try to grasp on to anything. You are in a new world after you lose your spouse," Taryn said.
Following Michael's death, 21-year-old Taryn spent a lot of time on the Internet searching for what she couldn't get from the Gold Star Family Support Center on Fort Hood. Gold Star family is a term for a family who has lost a soldier.
"I didn't want to know about my benefits. I wanted to know that there were other people out there who couldn't sleep at night, who were feeling like they wanted to die, like I was feeling. I didn't find anything out there that covered that," Taryn said.
But, her husband, Michael, had always told her that if you can't find something, make it happen.
And so, in his honor, she started work on a documentary. A Web site offering support for other widows soon followed.
With the help of filmmaker Donald Swaynos, Taryn launched the American Widow Project, an Austin-based nonprofit organization.
The documentary consists of interviews with six young widows from across the country. The film premiered at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar at 6:30 p.m. Saturday as part of the official launch of the American Widow Project.
Although she'd contributed to editing the film down from 55 hours of footage, Taryn had not seen the final version – complete with graphics, photos and music – until Saturday night.
Her only hope was that other widows would like the film. "They're my sisters," Taryn said.
Taryn plans to send her film, free of charge, to all those widowed from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She also plans to send her film to military installations throughout the United States in an effort to reach out to spouses who have had similar experiences.
The Web site – www.AmericanWidowProject.org – is a place where young widows can share their stories and experiences, and is full of advice for how to handle life post-loss.
Contact Iuliana Petre at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7469.