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MacDill reservists to spend Memorial Day providing hope, healing

Staff Sgt. Naara Miguez Vera (left) and Senior Airman Lorimar Rivera, 927th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, MacDill Air Force Base Fla., plan to travel to Crystal City, Virginia, during the Memorial Day weekend to participate in the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. TAPS, a not-for- profit organization that offers compassionate care to families grieving from the loss of loved ones serving in the U.S. Military. (U.S. Air force photo/ Senior Airman Xavier Lockley)

Staff Sgt. Naara Miguez Vera (left) and Senior Airman Lorimar Rivera, 927th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, MacDill Air Force Base Fla., plan to travel to Crystal City, Virginia, during the Memorial Day weekend to participate in the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. TAPS, a not-for- profit organization that offers compassionate care to families grieving from the loss of loved ones serving in the U.S. Military. (U.S. Air force photo/ Senior Airman Xavier Lockley)

Staff Sgt. Naara Miguez Vera, and her survivor Lauren, share a hug during a Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors retreat. Miguez, the medical readiness noncommissioned officer in charge at the 927th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, MacDill Air Force Base Fla., is a TAPS mentor, and travels throughout the country aiding in the healing process of families of fallen U.S. Military members. (Courtesy photo)

Staff Sgt. Naara Miguez Vera, and her survivor Lauren, share a hug during a Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors retreat. Miguez, the medical readiness noncommissioned officer in charge at the 927th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, MacDill Air Force Base Fla., is a TAPS mentor, and travels throughout the country aiding in the healing process of families of fallen U.S. Military members. (Courtesy photo)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- For many, Memorial Day is just another day off of work, an extra day to spend with family and friends while flipping 'burgers and dogs', few even know the meaning and even fewer take a moment to reflect and honor the memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the U.S. Military.

But two members of the 927th Aerospace Medicine Squadron here will be doing more than just honoring the fallen; they will be an integral part of the healing process for the children of fallen service members.

"It's tough dealing with the loss of a family member, especially for the children," said Senior Airman Lorimar Rivera, 927 AMDS, public health technician. "I was young when my cousin [nonmilitary] died from suicide, my family didn't talk about it and it was all hush, hush. It was tough for me, I needed to talk to heal, but we didn't."

Rivera along with Staff Sgt. Naara Miguez Vera, 927th AMDS, medical readiness noncommissioned officer in charge, will travel to Crystal City, Virginia, during the Memorial Day weekend to participate in the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. TAPS, a not-for- profit organization that offers compassionate care to families grieving from the loss of loved ones serving in the U.S. Military.

Throughout the weekend, those grieving a loss in the military will participate in discussions and activities specific to their grief journey, whether they are newly bereaved, or are now TAPS Peer Mentors offering comfort to those attending for the first time. They will spend time connecting with other survivors and learning coping skills as they honor their fallen hero.

"The compassionate care our TAPS families will get this weekend is incredibly valuable," said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS founder and president. "A widow can share her story; a surviving child can make new friends and a new memories; a father can connect with other dads and realize his grief is shared."

This is more than just time the two Airmen give, although the grieving families travel and accommodations are paid for by TAPS, very limited funds are available to the volunteers, most endure the cost themselves.

"It's not about the money," said Miguez, "It's expensive, we can't make it to every event, but the impact it makes on the lives of the families we sponsor and our own lives is priceless. It is a very rewarding experience"

The support doesn't end when the weekend retreat ends, volunteers and their families continue to stay in touch. 

"With all the technology, FaceTime, Skype, text and talk, Laruen [Miguez's survivor] and I talk weekly, she knows I am only a phone call away," said Miguez.

So while flipping those 'burgers and dogs', take a minute and reflect on those that have paid the ultimate price and for the families that are still paying for the sacrifice their loved ones made.

"Any military member that is looking for a volunteer opportunity should check TAPS out," said Rivera. "It's an amazing way to give back to our brothers and sister that have made the ultimate sacrifice."

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