A Lifeline for Military Families

Bonnie Carroll, 51

Washington, D.C.

On a crystalline Alaska morning in 1992, Bonnie Carroll still felt her husband’s kiss as Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, 44, climbed aboard a plane for a routine trip. “He was the Army’s youngest general—handsome and charismatic,” she says. “I thought he’d live forever.”

Tragically, he died that day after bad weather and mechanical problems brought down the plane. “Suddenly,” Bonnie says, “I was no longer an Army wife. I looked for support and I couldn’t find it.”

She vowed to change that, and today her Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS; http://www.taps.org) is the leading grief-support service for military families. Since launching with Tom’s life-insurance payout in 1994, Bonnie has built a 23-person staff and network of nearly 5,000 trained volunteers who have helped some 25,000 bereaved family members through a crisis hotline, mentoring program, benefits help and grief camps. “Nobody does more than Bonnie to make sure those who grieve aren’t alone,” says Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Donna Engeman, whose husband, CWO John Engeman, died in Iraq in 2006, says Bonnie and her team talked her through those dark early days and again last winter after a move left her struggling anew. “It was a new job, another home and my husband was still dead,” says Donna, of Alexandria, Va. “But Bonnie was right behind me, saying, ‘Yes, you can.'”

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