The grief and trauma surrounding the loss of a loved one takes a deep toll, and if anything can begin to help the families of fallen heroes, it is the programs of TAPS–Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

Founded by force-of-nature Bonnie Carroll in 1994 when she lost her husband in a military plane crash, TAPS provides love and support from mentors and others who have been through similar experiences. From the Good Grief camps to the Tragedy Assistance Hotline to TAPS care packages to regional survival seminars, TAPS provides resources to help families through the toughest times. As one child put it: “therapy can help you…TAPS can love you.”

TAPS has assisted more than 40,000 family members. Unfortunately, an increasingly prevalent and equally as devastating dynamic is death of a military hero by suicide. TAPS programs are there to help any family members who need it, regardless of the circumstances of the death of their loved one.

General (Ret.) Mark and Carol Graham lost both of their sons to military-related deaths. They gave a very moving speech on stage during the TAPS Celebrity Classic evening Friday night, and emotionally told the story of how their sons Jeffrey and Kevin died, and how TAPS helped them through.

If there was one theme consistently present throughout the Celebrity Classic weekend (which also included golf on Saturday at the Air Force Academy Eisenhower course), it was that people wanted to come together to see how they could support TAPS, how they could pay tribute to those who serve our country, and how they could support each other.

Organizers Bo and Lynne Cottrell once again orchestrated a phenominal weekend, with the Friday night classic incorporating a slightly different progam this year. Tony David, Pam Hughes and Kerry Edwards(Wildefire) began the entertainment during the reception, followed by the incredible songs of The Legacy Quartet, poignant and entertaining songs by nationally known artists/writers Brett Jones and Darryl Worley, longtime supporter and great artist Gary Morris and the hilarious comedy of Gary Mule Deer(“I’ve changed my name–I used to be called Elizabeth Mule Deer.”) Then the program culminated with the legendary Michael Martin Murphey singing his popular hits, including “Carolina in the Pines” and of course “Wildfire.”

It was once again a truly memorable evening, and brought home the sentiments that one of the survivor children said: “blood is thicker than water, but TAPS is thicker than blood.”