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TAPS program helps grieving military families

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ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) – Volunteers for “TAPS,” a tragedy assistance program for survivors, were packing up kits for newly bereaved military families. But on Wednesday, September 11, grief from the past was front and center.

“I just can't believe still, many years later, the devastation that has struck our country,” said American Legion Auxiliary volunteer, Marian Chirichella.”

The 9/11 Pentagon attack turned TAPS from a small support group into a lifeline. Founder Bonnie Carroll recalls taking victims’ families back out to the site:

“It was a very spiritual experience. Everyone just got down and prayed at this point, at this place where their loved ones breathed their last breath.”

And today brings those memories back.

“It does take you right back to that moment,” said Carroll. “What we can do is come together and hang onto each other.”

Over at Ft. Myer, young drummers with the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps were still in grade school on 9/11. But two men who were actually there recall suddenly having to switch from musician to soldier as they rushed off to help.

“I remember pulling up – I think it was on 110 – and jumping off the back of the truck and the heat of the building just almost knocked you over,” described Sgt. Major Gregory Rock with the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. “And a lot of us were just in disbelief. A lot of us had to go back to our basic training.”

As for Master Sgt. Matthew Ball: “I desperately remember wanting to do more that day, and also the sacrifices that so many made…We all lost somebody that day, didn't we?”

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