Where the Music Began: The Inspiring Stories Behind Love Lives On

Author: TAPS

"Love Lives On" is an album dedicated to the men and women who served and died in defense of America’s freedom. The songs included in this powerful collection share an honest message of courage, perseverance, and love. They are a vivid reminder of the guardians of our freedom and a reminder that the family also serves. Ten stories, ten families. Voices united.

We are proud to share the lives — the inspiration behind each song.

TAPS Families in NashvilleTAPS Families in Nashville

  Love Lives On

In loving memory of Brig. Gen. Thomas Carroll, U.S. Army

Brig. Gen. Thomas C. Carroll, a lifelong Alaskan and commander of the Alaska Army National Guard, lost his life in 1992 at age 44 when his National Guard plane crashed on the Chilkat Peninsula with seven other soldiers on board. He left behind his wife, Bonnie, who found no support to help address her heart-wrenching grief and struggled to help the other families who lost their military heroes in that crash.

How Tom lived—and died—changed Bonnie forever. How she responded would change the lives of hundreds of thousands of others.

Bonnie founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) so no one would ever walk alone after the death of a military loved one—to make sure that, as the words on Tom’s headstone say, Love Lives On.

  Climb to Glory

In loving memory of Sgt. Eddie Hernandez, U.S. Army

Capt. John Rhoten is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army who deployed twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. Since 2011, John has volunteered as a Military Mentor in TAPS Good Grief Camp, touching the lives of many children who have lost a military loved one. He serves to honor his fellow soldiers who did not return from battle. John said, “As an infantryman, you live on the edge, never knowing how far you will go in life because you signed up to lay your life on the line for your country and for your brothers.”

John dedicated this song to his friend, Sgt. Edelman (Eddie) Hernandez, who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2007 while defending a bridge to allow the rest of his company to get safely across.

  You Carry Me Too

In loving memory of Lt. Florence Choe, U.S. Navy

Lt. Florence Bacong Choe, 35, was killed in 2009 in northern Afghanistan when an insurgent, posing as an Afghan soldier, opened fire as Lt. Choe jogged along the perimeter fence of the command post where she was serving as a medical administration and logistics mentor to the Afghan National Army. She had volunteered for the assignment. Her husband, Jay, a Navy physician, was in San Diego with their daughter, Kristin, when he received the news.

“That was the darkest time of my life,” Cmdr. Choe recalls. “My daughter who was at the tender age of 3 at the time, was my savior and my light. Kristin gave me the strength to carry on.” Today, as Jay and Kristin jog together in their neighborhood in San Diego, he marvels at how much Kristin is like Florence, despite her limited memories of her mother.

  Press On Preston

In loving memory of Pfc. Preston Brown, U.S. Army

Pfc. Preston Brown loved basketball. While deployed to Iraq in 2001, he would spend his extra time playing the sport he loved. In January 2012, he had been home in El Paso, Texas for a few weeks when he skipped his usual basketball game to check on two friends he was concerned about. Preston was killed by a stray bullet when he and his friends were caught in the crossfire of a gunfight that erupted in a parking lot.

Others in his unit recalled, “When you get off the plane, you breathe a sigh of relief that you brought all your soldiers home safe. Then to lose one of them while on block leave, it’s one of the worst feelings ever.” Following Preston’s death, five lives were changed when the family donated one of his lungs, his liver, kidneys, and heart to critically ill strangers. In 2014, his family had the pleasure of meeting Preston’s heart recipient — forever bonded by their connection to Preston.

  Isn’t It Amazing

In loving memory of Maj. Ian Brinkley, U.S. Marine Corps

Ian C. Brinkley, a Marine aviator who had graduated top in his class in flight training, died of cancer in 2016 at the age of 42.

Moto, his call sign — also known as Master of the Obvious, earned a full-ride athletic/academic scholarship to attend Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina. He was commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps in 1997 and reported to Pensacola, Florida, where he earned his Naval Aviator wings. He served several tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and as an instructor pilot.

Moto’s service to our country was commended many times over. He is survived by his widow, Dawn Brinkley, and their two sons, Marcus and Gavin.

  K9 Brother

In loving memory of Sgt. Joshua Ashley, U.S. Marine Corps

Sgt. Joshua Ashley has been described as a “lion of a man, brother soldier, and a dog’s best friend.” When he died in 2012, he wasn’t on the front lines in Afghanistan; he was in front of the front lines with his German shepherd, Sirius, clearing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) ahead of his special operations unit.

Josh joined the Marines immediately after high school and became a military police officer and later a K9 handler. Josh was killed by an IED, saving many others, including Sirius.

Recognized posthumously for his bravery and heroism, Josh was awarded a number of commendations including the Bronze Star. He is survived by his parents, Tammie and Jon, brothers, Jon and Jordan, and his K9 partner, Sirius, who was adopted by his family and lives in California. “For me, being able to adopt Sirius is like having Josh with me,” Tammie Ashley said.

  People Need to Know

In loving memory of Spc. Wyatt Martin, U.S. Army

Spc. Wyatt Martin was a combat engineer who cleared the routes so his fellow soldiers would have safe passage. He joined the military in 2012 because his life and his family were so perfect that he had to give back.

Wyatt, a native of Mesa, Arizona, deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood. In late 2014, he and a fellow soldier were killed when an 800-pound bomb was detonated next to their vehicle in Parwan Province.

Wyatt is survived by his parents, Brian and Julie, and sisters, Katie and Beth. Hunting and fishing were Wyatt’s greatest passions. He is remembered as a young man with “a bigger than life” personality, character and charm. He told his parents, “If something happens to me, know that I went happy.”

  New Set of Wings

In loving memory of Col. David Banholzer, U.S. Air Force

Col. David Banholzer was the 14th Presidential Pilot of the United States; he also served as Commander of the Presidential Airlift Group stationed at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. At home, he took his young daughters “around the world” by drawing airports for them on butcher paper in the living room, until a rare brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, took his life.

David earned his commission from the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Wisconsin and entered active duty in December 1992. He served in a variety of roles and received numerous commendations. He was recognized with the Col. Joseph B. Duckworth Award, presented to the unit or individual who has made the most significant contribution to the art and science of instrument flying.

  Joshua 1:9

In loving memory of Pfc. Joshua Islam, U.S. Marine Corps

Joshua Islam, a native of Gainesville, Florida, died in a training accident at Camp Pendleton, California at the age of 19. He was an honor student and accomplished athlete; he was a pitcher and outfielder for the state championship Weddington Warriors baseball team. He was a top marksman at the School of Infantry and was preparing to become a member of the Marine Corps Reconnaissance Force.

Joshua wore a dog tag inscribed with the Bible verse, Joshua 1:9, given to him at birth. It read, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. God is with you.”

Joshua is survived by his mother and father, Donna and James, three brothers, Jarrett, Levi and Devin, and three sisters, Shannon, Victoria and Abigail.

  Rebel Wings

In loving memory of Sgt. Nicholas Pansini, U.S. Marine Corps

Inspired by the events of 9/11, Nick Pansini joined the Marine Corps shortly after graduation from Heritage High School in Littleton, Colorado. During his four short years of service he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and deployed to Iraq twice. Sgt. Nick Pansini was honorably discharged in January 2010.

He had enrolled in classes as part of his journey to become a firefighter but took his own life several months later. Describing Nick’s death, his mother said he “died at war in the hallway of his home.”

Find out more about the Love Lives On album.