On Veteran’s Day, we remember and honor our veterans, but how often do we think of their families? In particular, how often do we think about the families of those service members who made the ultimate sacrifice?
Last year, my husband and I heard the founder of the American Widow Project speak at a reunion of Vietnam Veterans in Colorado Springs. Taryn Davis lost her husband on May 21, 2007 and knows firsthand the experience of two military men or women in uniform knocking on your door to notify you of your spouse’s death. Her husband had been killed only an hour and a half after they’d last spoken on the phone.
As she sought to deal with her tragedy, she began to realize that there was little organized support for family members of the fallen, much less for the military widows. She told the touching story of googling “widow” only to see the question “did you mean window?” pop up. As a young military widow, she felt particularly alone. In the blink of an eye, she had gone from focusing on graduating from college to trying to cope with her husband’s death.
She discovered that we as a country are quick to acknowledge and memorialize the military members who have given their lives but seem to overlook their spouses. After traveling the country to meet and hear from other military widows, she realized that widows needed not only compassion and acknowledgment but also tools to help rebuild their lives.
When you consider these statistics from the American Widow Project website, the need is apparent:
“Since 2001, over 6,800 U.S. service members have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. This number does not include the thousands more who have lost their lives due to sudden illness, accident, homicide or those that have taken their own lives due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At the same time, more than 3,600 young widows … [have been left behind.]”
Taryn saw a need and founded the American Widow Project to address it. The mission is stated as:
“Providing vital support to military widows with programs that Unify * Educate * Empower and assist in rebuilding their lives in the face of tragedy.”
The organization accomplishes this mission in several ways:
• A website that houses tools and support
• Homecomings or “retreats” where widows come together to reflect, share and renew
• A documentary that details the stories of six military widows
• A newsletter to update widows on resources and stories
• WidowU—courses and resources
If like me, you had never heard of this organization nor considered the military widows around us, you may be wondering what you can do to help. The simplest way is to visit the website http://americanwidowproject.org/meet-us/mission/ and make a donation, but you’ll find other suggestions on the site on how to support this organization in its mission.
For example, the website has fundraising suggestions. I can see a fundraiser as a great service project for middle or high-schoolers. One of the members of my husband’s Vietnam Veteran group provides his Pigeon Forge cabin as a “Homecoming” location. Contact the group, and they will work with you on ways to offer your support.
While we seem unable to put an end to wars that create more military widows, surely we can do something to increase the awareness of the existence and tragedy of these young women, and in some cases, men. Hats off to Taryn Davis for building an organization to do just that.
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Kathy is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her books, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch” and “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,” at the Enchanted Forest, Amy’s Hallmark at the Forum and Mansell Crossing, and on Amazon. Contact her at email@example.com, and follow her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor/.