Bridget Goodwin was excited about her family's future. Her husband, Robert Goodwin, was an up and coming military doctor, having graduated from the prestigious US Naval Academy and then Georgetown University of Medicine. More significantly, Robert was not only a devoted husband, but a loving father as well to the couple's two young sons, Chris and Paul.
In 2009, Robert spent for nine months to work with the medical department of Army Special Operations unit in Shindad, Afghanistan. After returning home, he was selected to become the Chief Medical Officer of the USS Blue Ridge, the flagship of the Navy's 7th Fleet.
The close-knit family was thrilled with the news. To celebrate, they decided to take a cross country road trip to visit some of the national parks.
However, what started out as an exciting family vacation turned into a nightmare.
"The car accident occurred about five hours into our trip," Bridget writes. "Bob died nearly instantly...In an instant, I was catapulted into a living nightmare: my husband had died, I had no home and my sons faced an uncertain future."
She reveals that while her sons sustained their physical injuries, the emotional scars inflicted on herself and her sons from losing Robert will remain forever.
In the midst of her grief and loneliness, Bridget discovered the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, a 24/7 tragedy assistance resource for anyone who has suffered the loss of a military loved one, regardless of the relationship to the deceased or the circumstance of the death.
"TAPS immediately jumped in with open arms to help me and my children on the journey to recovery," Bridget reveals.
"I was assigned two peer mentors who contacted me religiously for months to check in on me. I also began attending a local TAPS care group where I found friendship and support from other survivors."
Bridget says she is particularly grateful for the care TAPS extended to her entire family.
"In spring of 2012, I attended my first TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar. My husband's parents flew from Portland, Oregon to attend the seminar as well. Attending TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar provided us with an opportunity to grieve Bob's loss together as family, which was very healing for all of us."
Three and a half years following her husband's death, Bridget now volunteers at TAPS to give back to the counselors and staff members who were key in healing her family.
Bridget is one of thousands of those affected by the death of military personnel in the United States that TAPS has supported.
Founded in 1994, TAPS is a frontline resourced for the families and loved ones of the men and women in the military. The organization provides comfort and care through comprehensive services and programs including peer based emotional support, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, and grief and trauma resources.
"While the program is about finding personal support, it's also about memorializing our loved ones," says Amy Nyberger Miller, who lost her 22 year old brother in war. "Our loved ones gave their lives for this country. Many of us do not want their memories and their legacies to be forgotten."
Those suffering from the loss of a loved one may call 1-800-959-TAPS (8277) to speak directly with a TAPS counselor. To volunteer or donate for TAPS, go to www.taps.org and sign up on their website to give back to those who have given so much to our country.