VFW Magazine March 2011 : Page 33

some who lost their spouses to non-mbat causes. ‘Me In a Different Shell’ en Davis learned of her husband’s death at 11:30 on the night of May 21, she was referred to FortHood’s Gold Star amily Support Center. But at the age of pical college student, she didn’t feel e she fit in there. “I kind of just fell by the wayside,” she said.“I was paralyzed, just trying to “We have the camaraderie that our husbands had.” —Taryn Davis, American Widow Project founder find something. I was given resources but they either seemed too outdated or they weren’t too dedicated. I Googled ‘widow’one evening and the response was, ‘do you mean “window”?’ I just wanted someone to give me a lot of details about what they had gone through as well.” High school sweethearts, Davis and her husband married before Christmas 2005.After his death, she corresponded with a fellow widow whose husband died in Vietnam when he was 18 and she was 19. “She’s a 60-year-old woman, but she knows me and what I’m going through,” Davis said.“She’s me in a different shell. She’s gone through what I’ve gone through and continues to go through.” Davis used her husband’s death gra-tuity money to purchase camera equip-ment and start AWP. In 2008, the Austin Film Society provided a grant to help create a DVD, and other funding has since derived from media attention and activities. The first interview was with a woman whose husband was killed in the same incident as Davis’. “It was very emotional, very hard to hear things and ask questions I didn’t really want to ask,” Davis told the San Marcos Daily Record, “because they would correlate with what happened to my husband.” An estimated half of all service mem-bers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been married. Davis ordered 3,000 copies of her DVD and sends them free of charge to these spouses. Jocelyn Mintzlaff was widowed at 25. Her husband, 34-year-old Staff Sgt. Brian L. Mintzlaff, died Dec. 18, 2006, in Taji, Iraq, from injuries suffered when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled over. He was assigned to the 2nd Bn., 8th Cav Regt., 1st Bde., 1st Cav Div. “This was his third tour in Iraq and he had come home safely the first two times and I never once considered it,” Mintzlaff told CBS 11 in Dallas-Fort Worth. “We had talked about it for practical matters, but I never once con-sidered that I would be a widow.” Mintzlaff felt estranged from every-one until she met Davis. “No 20-year-old is going to know how to bury a husband, and no one around her is going to know how to help her,” she told CBS 11.“AWP is definitely military-widow-to-military-widow, sharing stories about our husbands and trying to leave a legacy for them.” Within five months, some 120 wid-ows were involved with the project. Through the website, women come together from as far apart as California, Washington,D.C.,and Texas. “I thought AWP should be positive,” Davis said. “It signifies my husband’s sacrifice and my survival. I wanted to find others in my situation who could embrace that with me as well. For me just to be a part of AWP gives me a sense of what Michael felt when he was serv-ing.We have the camaraderie that our husbands had.” AWP’s hotline is staffed not by grief counselors, but by fellowwidows. Official events include surfing and skydiving, rather than speakers and seminars. “I went through the first year of my grief alone, miserable,”Stacey Markham, widow of Sgt. Jonathan Markham, told ABC News. “I didn’t think I could make it another day, and then I found AWP on MySpace and everybody just helps each other, encourages each other. It just gives me hope,makes me get up another day.” Continued on page 34  Caring for Survivors Wives of wounded service members face another set of difficulties. Operation Homefront’sWounded Warrior Wives (WWW) was created for the spouses of wounded survivors. Through on-site support communities, and a virtual community that includes an online discussion forum, WWW provides female caregivers with opportuni-ties to build relationships, access resources and enjoy brief moments of rest and respite from their care-giving responsibilities. Established in 2007, WWW is mostly Internet-based (www.operationhome-front.net/www). WWW also has a Facebook page where caregivers and wound-ed warriors are able to share information, see upcoming events and meet others. They provide support to wives at two short-term transitional housing “villages” where wounded warriors rehab in Washington, D.C., and San Antonio, and a support group at Ft. Bragg meets monthly. Operation Homefront assists military families coping with deployment and injury recovery. It also provides financial support to caregivers, even if not married. Services include: • Shelter, rent, mortgage, utilities or temporary lodging. • Vehicle expenses, car payments, car insurance or registration. • Airfare to transport a family member during illness or childbirth. • Child care during illness or surgery. • Phone bills due to urgent overseas calls or medical necessity. • Funeral and/or cremation expenses for military children not covered by SGLI. • Personal property taxes. • Emergency dental expenses. March 2011 • WWW.VFW.ORG • 33

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