With the recent announcement that all US troops in Iraq will be home by Christmas, I felt it was a good time to remind us that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created more military widows in the US than we have seen in two generations. These women are young, they have suffered an enormous loss and they are in desperate need of compassion and understanding from others who know exactly what they are going through.
When she entered her 20’s Taryn felt that all the pieces of her life had come together, she had married Michael Davis her best friend her soul mate, she was about to graduate from college and had planned to enter into a career in criminal justice. Her husband had been deployed to Iraq he had already served eight months and was supposed to be home in another seven. They contacted eachother regularly over skype and she heard his voice over the phone which helped them stay close through their physical separation. On May 21, 2007 they had talked on instant messenger about mundane every day things and how much they loved each other. At 7:35 he abruptly had to sign off, it was not unusual; she went on with her day and went to her parents for a visit. At 10:30pm she received a call from her neighbor asking her to come home. At 11pm she arrived home to see two men, wearing the same uniform her husband had worn to their wedding a year and a half before, waiting to tell her that an hour after they last spoke his vehicle was hit by thousands of pounds of detonation and he would be returning home in a flag-covered casket.
At 21, she stood at a podium and read her husband’s eulogy. As the days turned into weeks the support drifted away. Taryn spent night after night researching support services and looking for others who shared the same tragedy in a time of war. Four months later with no desire to continue living, she Googled "Widow" in hopes to just see someone like her: a young military widow, someone who would be honest and candid, someone who knew what it was to hit rock bottom and feel there was no way to get back up.
Google responded with, "Did you mean: Window?"
Feeling lost and alone, Taryn reached out to one of the widows whose spouse died in the same incident as her husband. What started with one widow, inspired her to travel across the country to hear other women’s stories of love, tragedy and survival. In hearing their accounts, she hoped to learn more about the title that had been given to her–that of a military widow.
What began as her own personal journey has expanded into a documentary film and The American Widow Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to the new generation of military widows. Four years later, the American Widow Project is the only non-profit organization solely dedicated to the new generation of military widows. Consisting of over 850 military widows (and growing), a website that bears candid amazing stories of tribulations and celebrations, national events held throughout the country (over 16 held and counting), and a hotline answered by a fellow widow. They don't have counselors or put these women in a room to talk about grief; they get these women out in the world, living life, fueling it with their grief, their love for their hero, and the legacies they each carry.
Taryn has grasped on and embraced her new life with all the enthusiasm and passion she had when Michael was still alive. Inspired solely by the willpower and strength of the women “in her shoes” she has found that true love is eternal, that the lessons and things her husband said and did still run through her veins and that she is not alone.
She has found her passion–to carry on a hero’s legacy, empower widows, share the other side of the sacrifice being made by those supporting our troops and to follow her heart and dreams. Taryn hopes to reach out to her generation by making them aware that sacrifice and survival takes place on a daily basis.
There are over 3,000 military widows from Iraq and Afghanistan, not including those who lost their heroes to non-combat reasons once returning home. Taryn wants to reach them all, to allow them to know the services and camaraderie they have waiting for them are there, among those who know the true depth of the loss, love and pain.
Their husbands gave their lives for the lives of their fellow service members. The American Widow Project allows them to find pride in their title as a military widow, pride in the ultimate sacrifice made by their soul mate, and pride in finding the spark to live life, give back, and heal on this lifetime journey they are each taking.
“These women gave me back my life, not to start a new life but to start a new chapter in the story of my life from a wife to young military widow. They are my heroes.”- Taryn Davis