Some things you don’t forget. Taryn Davis will always remember the day when she learned the devastating news that her husband Michael had died in action, while serving in the U.S. army. She was at her parents’ house, and was readying to leave when a neighbor called and asked to speak to her. The neighbor indicated that she had some visitors at the house who wanted to speak to her, but he gave no indication as to whom these visitors were. Actually, he refused to tell her outright. Taryn’s instincts told her that something was up, and that something bad was up. She lost it so much that a neighbor had to driver her home, and she prayed the entire ride there.
There was an unmarked vehicle waiting, and the unnamed men her neighbor hadn’t named standing by. Then came the heart-cutting announcement. Michael was dead, and she was now a widow.
Out of this devastating moment, Davis would find her passion and purpose, and would lead to the founding of The American Widow Project, a non-profit organization to help those women had lost a loved one in military service. What started out as a small movement to help other women like her, has turned into a large scale project, and one of the most looked-to resources for military families all over the globe.
Q & A
The American Widow Project is a documentary that you put together.
The American Widow Project (AWP) is a non-profit organization, with a self titled documentary that is used as a tool of healing in our AWP Care packs we send out to the widows. It includes a diverse group of 6 military widows throughout the country sharing everything from their love story to their perseverance. By putting into a DVD format, it provides an accessible medium for healing and realizing that one isn’t alone.
You no doubt get a whole lot of emails, notes and letters from people who have been positively affected by American Widow Project. What’s been the most touching?
There are too many to pick out one. I wish I could write every widow out there, a thank you, for what she has done for my life, and the lives of so many more, in just them trusting in the AWP and all that we stand for. There have also been emails and letters from current service members that write to say they are comforted in knowing that if anything were to happen to them, their spouse has the AWP waiting. Those are amazing.
In 2011, you were nominated as a CNN Hero. Do you remember what you were doing when you first heard the news?
I was actually in South Carolina leading an AWP weekend for a group of my fellow military widows! It was amazing to be surrounded by those I love and stand proud with. THe AWP is a culmination of all of our love stories, tragedies, and resilience…I couldn’t have asked for a better group to be with at such a time.
How can people best help the work of American Widow Project along?
So many ways! They can become an AWP Ambassador and become a integral part of our organization’s outreach. They can sign up for our supporter newsletter to see if they would be interested in helping with our getaways and events (we cover all costs for the widows in attendance, so even the smallest things help). They can follow us on Facebook and even just take a moment to read the amazing stories of our fellow military widows. Lastly, the can make a donation to help cover all the costs to doing over 20 events per year, having a 24/7 hotline, to send out our AWP packs to the widows and more!
Everybody grieves differently. From what you have seen, and from what you have experienced with other widows, what do fiancées and wives who’ve lost their loved ones in war tend to have in common during the grieving process?
They all come to the realization that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. They realize that there is no timeline on when and how they are supposed to do things. They realize that grief is universal and their journey is unique. They realize that love is eternal and the legacies are carried on through finding the strength to keep on living. They realize that they are more than the sum of their tragedy.
What’s next for the American Widow Project?
We are launching our newest program, WidowU, this Spring (widowu.org)! WidowU provides tangible tools and education to all military widows, integrating peer to peer support, hands-on training, and an academic approach to support all those who have lost a loved one serving in the military. All courses are provided free of charge through contributions from our donors. WidowU also strives to offer resources in nearby communities to ensure the support continues once the widows return home. We believe it’s our nation’s duty to provide these amazing men and women with the tools and education needed to live a fulfilling and passionate life… and WidowU is taking the first step in ensuring that happens.