May 24th, 2015 06:15 EST
Ash Carter Welcomes Survivors of Fallen to Pentagon
By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his wife, Stephanie, welcomed members of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors to the Pentagon last night, telling them the sacrifices they`ve made for the nation will never be forgotten.
Senior military and Defense Department civilian leaders gathered with the secretary to greet the spouses, children and other family members as they arrived in busloads and were met by the Joint Service Honor Guard and Herald Trumpeters at the Pentagon`s River entrance.
The Memorial Day weekend marks TAPS` annual seminar and Good Grief Camp " for children. Numerous camp activities were conducted at the Pentagon last night.
Each of them should consider the Pentagon as home and the Defense Department as family, Carter told the group gathered on the entrance steps.
These steps are where we welcome foreign leaders and dignitaries, and you are as important to me as any of them, " the secretary said.
The support they gave their service members and the ultimate sacrifices they made show dedication that no one in this building will ever forget, " Carter said. No one in this country will ever forget. No one around the world should ever forget, " he added.
Tonight is to celebrate you, to welcome you home, to make you feel at home, to let you have fun " the kids, especially, " the secretary told them of the events awaiting them. We`ve got lots of cool stuff to do, " and [it`s a way] for you to know how much everyone around this country loves you and your family. "
Carter and his wife, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. and his wife, Mary, shook hands with and hugged TAPS members as they entered the building.
Stations Full of Activities
Groups of the TAPS families were escorted to the Pentagon`s courtyard and through a variety of stations " inside the building where adults and children participated in camp activities offered by the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and the National Basketball Association.
The Army station featured two horses of the 3 rd U.S. Infantry, The Old Guard. " The horses pull caissons at military funerals. The well-known TAPS horse " named Klinger, the subject of a children`s book written by Betsy Beard, the mother of a fallen soldier, stood with his handlers and another caisson horse,, Peter, for hands-on therapy. The Army also provided a Humvee static display and the Six-String Soldiers played patriotic music.
Children learned a few maneuvers in combat drills and met mascot Chesty the bulldog in the courtyard at the Marine Corps station. Families also saw a martial-arts demonstration and learned about the role of an infantryman.
The country combo Country Current complemented activities at the Navy`s station while families watched a drill team, learned to build wooden gliders and operated the SeaPerch remotely operated vehicle in a tank of water.
An Air Force guitarist talked to groups about life in the military as a musician at the Air Force station, while three fighter-jet pilots helped families try on helmets and flight suits. The Air Force Research Lab also offered child-friendly science experiments.
Coast Guard activities included the Coast Guard auxiliary`s safety boat Coastie, as well as Sammy the Sea Otter Robot, while members discussed aspects of the Coast Guard`s mission.
Former NBA player Gheorghe Muresan and other basketball favorites talked about professional basketball, led children and adults through a warmup exercise, and led them through dribbling and passing games.
TAPS officials estimated that 500 children took part in the camp and said they expect 2,000 participants at its annual event this weekend.
TAPS: Support Since 1994
TAPS is a national organization that provides compassionate care for the families of America`s fallen military heroes. It has offered support to more than 50,000 surviving family members of U.S. fallen military and their caregivers since 1994. The organization`s resources and free help are available 24/7 online, in person, and via its helpline at 1-800-959-TAPS (8277).
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)
Photo Credit: Wikipedia