TAPS family members visit Iditarod

Published: Mar. 2, 2019 at 8:50 PM AKST
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Dozens of military families made the trek to Alaska to see the Iditarod, but more importantly to see eachother.

They're all part of the TAPS program, or Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. It was started in Anchorage and it helps support military families who've lost a loved one during service.

Carlos and Melida Arredondo lost both of their sons during the Iraq War; one in 2004, and the other in 2011 died by suicide. They say coming to Alaska has been a powerful experience.

“On this trip, have met many who have recently lost their loved ones, many by suicide which is an epidemic in the armed forces. It's good to be there for them and you don't have to be there in terms of talking, it's just the listening," said Melida Arredondo.

TAPS staff say that's exactly what they hope these families will experience.

"At TAPS, our motto is Remember the love, celebrate the life, and share the journey, and here we brought these families together to walk side by side with one another, experience the beauty of Alaska, and truly remember our heroes and to know that you aren't alone," said Gabriel Rao.

According to the organization, the late Senator Ted Stevens is credited with helping guide founder Bonnie Carroll in creating TAPS and turning it into a national non-profit.