Military Widows Go Skydiving with the Army's Golden Knights

Author: TAPS

The widows will go skydiving with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights, an elite parachute jumping team based at Homestead. For some, the jump is a way to connect with their spouse’s military training and experience. For others, it’s deeply personal. For Terri Starliper, who was widowed when her husband died in a military parachute training accident six weeks after their wedding, it’s about facing fears and honoring a legacy.

Golden Knight

Sailing, parasailing, swamp buggy tours, and kayaking, courtesy of Caribbean Watersports & Enviro-Tours of the Florida Keys, are also planned for the group. Plenty of beach time will give the widows a place to connect and talk.

It’s these moments together with others who have endured a similar loss, where it’s ok to laugh, where they are allowed to be themselves – that bonding happens. “We find that bonds between survivors go very deep and often transcend ordinary friendship ties,” said Bonnie Carroll, a military widow who founded TAPS in 1994 to provide comfort and care to anyone grieving the death of someone who served in the military.

“By connecting with others who have had a similar experience, they find understanding and support,” said Carroll. “For many of them – that sense of adventure and wonder was lost when their husbands died. Our retreats give them a way to renew their strength and find that joy and happiness again.”

Many of the women attending the retreat are in their twenties and thirties – and don’t fit society’s stereotype of a war widow. It can take on average, 5-7 years for people who have endured the traumatic loss of a loved one to reach a new normal. “Long after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fade from the headlines, these widows and other survivors will still be rebuilding their lives,” said Carroll. “We are here to provide help and support for the long haul.”

TAPS has held three retreats for widows in Alaska and Las Vegas. TAPS is organizing two additional retreats for widows, widowers and widowed significant others in 2012. A glamorous getaway to California will be held in the fall, and snow-trekking event enjoying the beauty of Montana will be held in the winter.