TAPS helps survivors of military casualties rebuild their lives - WSMV News 4

TAPS helps survivors of military casualties rebuild their lives

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It's a life they didn't choose but are forced to face each day: the life of a military widow. After they're handed a folded flag, another difficult journey begins as they rebuild their lives.

Now, one special support group is using a different sort of therapy to help them cope.

During a recent line dancing class at the Wild Horse Saloon, the participants were far from any battlefield, but they still had the scars of war.

When widow Kylynn Maxwell is with other members of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, she puts her wedding ring back on.

"It's been almost three years since he died, so I don't feel like I have to wear it all the time," Maxwell said. "I like to wear it to TAPS, because we all kind of compare our rings. We all kind of talk about memories of our husbands."

Maxwell's husband, Nathan - a Marine - committed suicide shortly after he returned from a tour in Iraq, even after he asked for help.

"It was up and down every day until, ultimately, he just ended his life before being diagnosed, before being on medication or anything like that," Maxwell said.

That was three painful years ago, but Maxwell is not at this TAPS retreat for herself. Rather, she wants to help others like her.

"People think that widows should be at home crying, watching chick flicks or something, but we're still normal people," she said. "We don't have a disease, you know. We can go out and have fun."

Roni Koyle's husband, Robert, served for two years in the Air Force before he took his life in December 2011.

Not long after, Roni Koyle received a message from a complete stranger: Kylynn Maxwell.

"It's like you can finally just talk. You don't have to be tense, worry about crying or not letting someone see that pain or putting on a fake smile to help someone else get through the day. You can just be you," Koyle said.

These moments of solace can be found somewhere between a few shuffles and turns on the dance floor.

"You can have fun and let go, because nobody is going to judge you. TAPS is just a safe place," Maxwell said.

TAPS takes in about 13 people per day who are grieving the loss of a military member. For more information on the nonprofit group, visit: http://www.taps.org/.

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