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Mourning a soldier or veteran? You needn’t be alone

Friday, November 11th, 2011 | Posted by

By Chris Smith/THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Apart from the parades and the department-store sales, Veterans Day is a day of mourning for anyone who loved a soldier or a military veteran who isn’t here to join in the activities and commemorations of the day.

But this year, Sonoma County people missing a GI or a vet needn’t hurt alone. A special, day-long program in Santa Rosa on Sat., Nov. 19, invites survivors to come and meet with others dealing with the same pain.

Memorial Hospice, Hospice of Petaluma and North County Hospice are bringing to town a survivor seminar and separate children’s Good Grief Camp created by TAPS, the national Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

Both programs will be held — at no cost to participants — at a Santa Rosa hotel. Adult and child participants will be helped to cope with their grief at the loss of  a loved warrior or veteran, and in the process will have an opportunity to help others.

Local National Guard soldiers and members of the Coast Guard will be on hand to assist with the TAPS programs, sponsored by a grant from the St. Joseph Health System.

The survivor seminar for grieving adults will run concurrently with the  Good Grief Camp for children aged 4 to 19.

Hospice Advisory Board member Roger Chevalier, a retired Commander with the U.S. Coast Guard, was the main force behind bringing TAPS programs to Sonoma County.

“The loss of a loved one in the military has a lasting effect on family and friends,” Chevalier said. “When I visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., I realize that I still mourn for four of my high school classmates who died thousands of miles away from home while serving our country. When I get together with my fellow classmates, the stories of Ed, Greg, Joey, and Charlie always surface. I only wish there had been a program like this 40 years ago.”

Participating adults and children must register in advance by going to www.taps.org. More information on TAPS is available by calling the non-profit  (800) 959-8277.

Participants will be invited to take part in release of (eco-friendly) helium balloons on the afternoon of the healing program.

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Ann Hutchinson is our Santa Rosa correspondent.
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