in Iraq is nearing a close, with the withdrawal of nearly all U.S. troops
by the end of 2011, but for the more than 44,000 family members left behind
fallen military service members who died in Iraq, the journey through grief
will continue for years.
Because the emotional images of troop homecomings and final border crossings in the coming days may stir raw emotions for survivors, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is standing up additional support services for families of the fallen. The TAPS Call Center at 800.959.TAPS (8277) is available 24/7 to offer comfort and care for survivors of our fallen military. Additional support staff will be on call to handle what TAPS expects to be an increased number of calls due to the troop pullout.
“The troop pullout coincides with the holidays, which are typically a challenging time of year for military survivors who are grieving,” said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS founder and president. “Every year we receive calls on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day from families who are struggling with their grief. We expect even more this year because of the troop pullout. We will continue to expand support services through TAPS in 2012 to provide support for bereaved military families.”
Families say it is the finality of it, that stirs emotions. “The homecoming images are bittersweet for us. The troop pullout is a very visible and emotional reminder to families of our fallen military that their loved ones have died and are not coming home,” said Ami Neiberger-Miller, TAPS public affairs officer and surviving sister of U.S. Army Specialist Christopher Neiberger, who was killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq at age 22 in August 2007.
Approximately 4,487 U.S. service members have given their lives in Iraq, with 4,421 deaths occurring under Operation Iraqi Freedom (03/19/2003-08/31/2010) and 66 deaths under Operation New Dawn (09/01/10-present).
Number of People in the U.S. Impacted by Military Deaths in Iraq
Bereavement experts tell us that for each military loss, there are ten people, on average, significantly impacted. They are mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, fiancés, grandparents, cousins, and other family friends and relatives.
Family members left behind who are significantly impacted: 44,870 people
Number of adults losing a spouse (estimate): 2,468 widows/widowers
Number of children losing a parent (estimate): 3,141 children
Number of parents impacted: 8,974 losing a child
Number of grandparents losing a grandchild: 13,461 losing a grandchild
Number of people losing a brother or sister: 3,679 losing brother or sister
The traumatic death of a loved one can impact people for a lifetime. It takes, on average, 5-7 years for someone to reach a “new normal” following the death of a loved one. Some family members struggle with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep issues and memory loss.
TAPS reminds the public and the media to treat surviving families of our fallen military with compassion and sensitivity. Please be understanding if families get emotional, request privacy or need space.
You can help the family of a fallen service member by reaching out and offering support one-on-one. You can also volunteer or donate to help a nonprofit charity like TAPS that assists families of the fallen through www.taps.org.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. Since its founding in 1994 by bereaved military families, TAPS has helped more than 30,000 surviving family members and caregivers supporting families coping with a military death. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, seminars for adults, camps for children, 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. For more information go to www.taps.org or call the toll-free national military helpline at 800.959.TAPS (8277).
Information Courtesy of Ami Neiberger-Miller