KABUL, Afghanistan – The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) founder, Bonnie Carroll, paid a visit to the International Security Assistance Force Senior Enlisted Leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas R. Capel, and discussed Carroll’s plans to provide support to Afghans here who are grieving the death of a loved one while serving in the military. Carroll and her delegation of surviving family members and cultural affairs experts are visiting Afghanistan to learn how the organization can successfully engage with women in Afghanistan, through lessons the U.S. military and civilians have learned while conducting humanitarian efforts here in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Command Sergeant Major Capel is an exceptional leader who truly honors the service and sacrifices of his soldiers by ensuring their loved ones are comforted and cared for,” said Carroll. “He has been a tremendous supporter of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and his guidance during our recent visit to ISAF HQ was instrumental in the success of our mission.”
During their visit to Kabul, Carroll and her team explored partnerships with Afghan widows and mothers to continue the mission their loved ones served and to provide closure for Afghan surviving family members.One of their projects is a bracelet campaign where Afghan widows have sent lapis bracelets to TAPS to raise funds to support this healing effort. Information about this program can be found at www.taps.org/afghan.
The TAPS team also learned a lot about the reality of daily life for the women in Afghanistan, according to Carroll.
She met with Afghan women in markets to learn about their lives, their skills and their urgent and long-term needs. According to Carroll, the work she and her team do is important because grief transcends political boundaries and military objectives for devastated families and impacts their ability to cope. Those killed in Afghanistan, both Afghan and American, leave behind families and friends whose lives are forever changed through an unexpected loss.
“I think the work that Bonnie and the folks at TAPS are doing is remarkable,” Capel said. “It is great they’re out here and seeing what they can do for the Afghan families who have lost someone in this war – whether it is a family member or a battle buddy.”
In addition to assisting Afghan widows of fallen Afghan heroes, the TAPS team attended a memorial service for Americans and Afghans killed last week and met with commanders from both nations. The trip was also highlighted by a discussion about adopting a sister village through the Marshall Plan Charities and the Lamia Foundation in Herat.
The TAPS representatives also conversed with Pamela Fatima Hussein, United Nations Deputy Country Director, and World Bank Senior Social Development Specialist, Asta Olesen. By meeting with these delegations and key leaders, and working to improve the lives of those experiencing catastrophic loss, it’s important to help people recognize the commonality of grief, so the bereaved women in Afghanistan and America can build a foundation of understanding and healing, said Carroll.
“We are also engaged in increasing awareness and appreciation of the real and potential contribution of women in ending the conflict and promoting a free and stable Afghanistan and empowering Afghan women to involve themselves in all phases of reconstruction projects and peace building,” she said. “Participants in our projects would be Afghan, British, and American widows and mothers who have lost a loved one in Afghanistan.”
For almost 20 years, Carroll and her organization have been assisting the families of Americans who have paid the ultimate price. According to Carroll, understanding a shared loss and addressing the psychosocial aspects of traumatic bereavement allows survivors to meaningfully reconnect with others who truly understand their grief.
“The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors is connecting Afghan and American women with the goal of healing hearts broken by so many sacrifices made, sharing the grief of a traumatic loss to lessen the pain and isolation, and building bridges of compassion and understanding between our cultures to enable these two countries to move forward toward healing, reconciliation, growth and empowerment,” Carroll said.