Local News

Mentors support families of fallen soldiers

Posted August 21, 2010 7:02 p.m. EDT
Updated August 21, 2010 10:23 p.m. EDT

— Coping with a soldier's death can be a lonesome and difficult journey. But survivors of fallen soldiers don't have to go through it alone.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) offers peer mentor training to help survivors grieving a military loss.

Randy and Betsy Beard learned about TAPS after their 22-year-old son was killed in 2004 in Ramadi, Iraq.

“He took shrapnel in the head and died about three hours later,” Randy Beard said.

Brad Beard was an Army mechanic who worked on howitzers. He was stationed in Korea for two years and volunteered to go to Iraq when he heard the Army needed mechanics.

“When someone really close to you dies, it just shatters your whole world,” Betsy Beard said.

“My heart was ripped apart,” Randy Beard said. “You are helpless. You can't help your wife. You can't help your family. There is nothing you can do to make it better.”

Overwhelmed with grief, the Beards contacted TAPS for help. A program mentor reached out to Betsy Beard by telephone.

“She was a mom like me who lost a son in the military. She lived in Vermont,” Betsy Beard said. “I knew if she could survive, I could survive as well.”

The Beards are taking part this weekend in a TAPS camp in Pinehurst where about 150 people are learning how to survive military loss.

“We are here to reach out our hand to those walking behind us,” Randy Beard said.

“What that does for grief is that it helps us feel not so isolated,” Betsy Beard said.

The support is crucial because the Beards say they have learned that time does not heal the pain.

“Time just moves on. What we do with our time can help or hinder us I think,” Randy Beard said.

The Beards, who live in Louisburg, travel to Fort Hood, Fort Campbell and Fort Lewis to provide peer mentoring. They also run a monthly support group for military families dealing with loss in Raleigh.