News: Biden visits children of fallen warriors
Story by Cpl. Michael Iams
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - United States Vice President Joe Biden visited more than 40 children with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors at hanger 6 of the air station here, during their four-day Good Grief Camp out at Palomar Mountain, June 14.
T.A.P.S. is a program that brings children, who have lost parents in combat, together in an environment where everyone understands what each other is going through and learn healthy coping skills to help manage the stress and grief of losing a loved one.
“This camp allows the children to get together and see that they are not alone in their grief,” said Bonnie Carroll, president and founder of T.A.P.S. “Here (the children) are able to have fun and be around other children who have experienced the same feelings of loss.”
During their camp, the children and their Marine mentors visited the air station where they viewed aircraft like the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter, the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Packbot and reconnaissance gear.
“We volunteer to help these children cope with the pain of their loss,” said Lance Cpl. Omar Hawkins, a warehousemen with Headquarters and Support Battalion and T.A.P.S. mentor. “Most of us have also lost a loved one and understand how they feel as we help them through their time of need.”
The children and mentors received a surprise visit from Vice President Joe Biden and his family as they landed here in Air Force 2.
“I just want to say how honored we are to be here,” said Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden. “I have a son in the Army National Guard who went to Iraq, so I have some idea of how tough it is to have a loved one in the war.”
The Bidens spoke to the children about losing a family member and stressed the importance of finding someone to help them through the difficult times.
“It’s important to be around people who understand what you’re going through,” the vice president said to the children. “I hope that is what you find out here at this camp. I hope you find that there are a lot of kids who understand and be there for you.”
Biden sat with the kids and answers their questions while they all ate ice cream.
“I asked the vice president how many states he has been to,” said Lily Blish, an 8-year-old who lost her father to cancer seven years ago. “I would like to travel a lot like he does.”
After talking with Biden, the children were able take a photo with him and get a tour of Air Force 2.
“This is a once is a lifetime opportunity for the children to be able to meet with the vice president and ask him any question they want,” said Brad Gallup, a team grief facilitator with T.A.P.S. “This also let (the children) know they are still connected to the military community and how important they are.”