LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Grieving military families have an outlet to help them heal during times of tragedy. TAPS is an organization that assists thousands of families each year who have lost servicemen or women.
"I lost my husband in an Army plane crash along with seven other soldiers, and at that time there was no national program," said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS founder.
Carroll is the founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program, or TAPS. It provides military families with peer support, professional counseling and a way to honor their loves ones.
Last year, TAPS assisted more than 9,000 newly grieving military families.
"The war followed many of our service members home, and whether they died by suicide as a result of post traumatic stress, or illnesses as a result of exposures to toxins, or an accident or any other way, regardless of the moment and the manner, this is about the years of the life and service."
Rhea Shannon and Kelly McHugh-Stewart both lost their fathers in 2010 in Afghanistan. The two met for the first time and bonded over their shared experiences.
"I know that she had a man that raised her to be a strong woman, and she knows from me we are still going and to me that is the best thing to honor our dads," said Shannon.
"So, it is really special to have a place where surviving family members can come together, make those connections and really build that family," said McHugh-Stewart.
For younger children and teens, there is a TAPS Good Grief Camp. They are partnered with an active duty or veteran service member to help provide support and guidance.
"Most importantly our biggest function is creating that safe space for them to grieve the loss of their loved one," said Carl Gilbert, chief warrant officer, U.S. Army. "A lot of these children never had an opportunity to grieve until they come to a TAPS event."
TAPS also has local care groups. To learn more, visit www.taps.org.