1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
Fifty Soldiers were honored in
the Fallen Heroes Family Center Jan. 13 for taking an extra,
The Soldiers volunteered in
October to mentor children during the 3rd Annual National
Military Suicide Survivor Seminar
and Good Grief Camp, offered by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in
Colorado Springs. Each child had lost a loved one, a servicemember, to suicide.
While hundreds of people from
across the nation spent three days sharing hardships, searching
for answers and making connections,
the Soldiers offered children of all ages their support.
"It was a way to give back
a little piece of what they were missing ... the military
environment, military culture,"
said Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Lawson, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment,
1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. He mentored a 13-year-old boy who lost his father.
Lawson said the seminar and camp
presented an opportunity to let children know that people outside
their Families care about
their hardships, too. The Soldier firmly stated that "getting involved more in your community makes it a better place."
To show their gratitude, TAPS members residing in Colorado Springs served a homemade Mexican-style meal
in the Fallen Heroes Family Center. Ahead of filling tacos and scooping salsa over tortilla chips, the Soldiers were
formally recognized for their altruistic and encouraging efforts last fall.
Col. Robert F. McLaughlin,
garrison commander, explained his appreciation for the large
amount of Soldiers who volunteered
as mentors. At the seminar, McLaughlin discussed the loss of a lifelong friend to suicide.
"It's ultimately Soldiers helping Soldiers," he said, "and in this case, Soldiers helping the Families of the fallen.
"People who've been doing this for years were just blown away," said McLaughlin, about survivor outreach services coordinators.
"The comments that I got for weeks afterwards, from TAPS leadership, were phenomenal. They could not believe
how much of a connection you made."
Pat Randle, Army Community
Service director at Fort Carson, read a message from Kim Ruocco,
TAPS director of suicide education
and outreach tragedy assistance. Ruocco had sent the letter from Boston to the Soldiers.
"You are here today because
you have sacrificed your precious free time to make a difference
in the life of a child,"
said Randle, reading Ruocco's letter. "We realize that you give an enormous sacrifice every day as American Soldiers,
but to take that extra step is truly extraordinary.
"The children arrived in
Colorado from all over the country. They were children who had
experienced the unthinkable;
someone they loved had died by suicide. For most, it was their father. They arrived holding tight to their surviving parent,
looking fragile and unsure.
"The first thing I noticed
was the laughter. I caught glimpses of Soldiers with children on
their shoulders, the child giggling
and the Soldier smiling. I saw a mentor chasing a child and the child screaming with excitement. I saw a mentor with a child
on his lap looking at pictures of her dad.
"I realized how great an
impact these Soldiers had on our children. It was obvious that
this group of men and women
had a love of life and a compassion for others that was truly inspirational.
"The parents were tearful
as they realized what this mentor relationship meant to their
child. Their child had reconnected
to their military Family that they thought they lost. They had found a hero that wanted to listen and who really cares,
somebody just for them."
Sgt. Billy Cremeans, 32nd
Transportation Company, 68th Combat Sustainment Support
Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade,
admitted that everyone was nervous at first, however strong connections quickly surfaced.
Cremeans said the relationship
he nurtured with a 6-year-old boy remains strong today. He was
planning on cheering
for the child at a wrestling tournament the following day. With three children of his own, the Soldier and father felt obligated
to support the TAPS seminar and camp.
"I felt like I needed to
give something back," said Cremeans. "I would want
somebody to do the same thing for my kids
if something happened to me."
Story and photo from the Fort Carson Mountaineer
Home | Photos | Battles & History | Current |
Rosters & Reports | Medal of Honor | Killed in Action |
Personnel Locator | Commanders | Station List | Campaigns |
Honors | Insignia & Memorabilia | 4-42 Artillery | Taps |
What's New | Editorial | Links |