This past weekend, CNN aired their annual CNN Heroes broadcast, where they honor the top 10 people who are changing the world. This year, the widow of an Army corporal was honored for her work with widows of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Four years ago, Taryn Davis’ husband was killed in Iraq, and she felt lost and isolated as she tried to comes to terms with her loss. As she struggled, she found that she was ostracized from other Army wives because she represented their greatest fear, and everyone thought that due to her young age, she would just move on and remarry.
After her husband’s death, Davis received the death gratuity and funeral benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as recommendations for survivor support groups.
However, she was dismayed to find that these groups were large, often with more than 100 attendees. Additionally, she found that the vast majority of widows at these gatherings were over 65 and often not connected to the military.
She was determined to connect with other young war widows to find out how they were handling their grief; she connected with another widow whose husband was killed with her own. What started with a tearful encounter caught on tape turned into a project where Davis traveled around the country interviewing other young war widows. She compiled six testimonies into the documentary “The American Widow Project,” and founded a nonprofit by the same name. The nonprofit currently has more than 800 members and includes an online forum offering support and inspiration.
With a focus on a young group, the mode of support starts primarily with social networking tools and Skype, and every few months, a group gathering in a different city. Small groups meet together and do activities such as zip-lining, surfing or skydiving. Davis says that it helps to have the ability to live your life and to also have time to reflect.
The American Widow Project is open to widows of any service members, as well as women who were engaged to a service member. While the average age is 25, the group is open to widows of any age.
Although Taryn Davis was not voted as the CNN Hero of the Year, she was honored as one of the finalists last Saturday for her help with war widows.