When Joanne Butler’s husband was killed in Iraq in 2007 while working for Falls Church-based DynCorp International, it was immediately obvious to her the limited support groups available to contractors’ families.
There were lots of organizations built to help military families who had lost a spouse or child, but the same options often weren’t available to the families of contractors.
Butler, whose husband was also a veteran, eventually found herself turning for support to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, better known as TAPS.
The first time she went to a TAPS event, she had thought she was recovering well from her husband’s death.
“I thought I was doing great,” she said. But when she got there, “I actually started crying.”
The TAPS event helped her meet others who had family members killed while working overseas. “You’re with other people, and they all understand,” she said. “You can open up.”
DynCorp has made a point of trying to repay the support TAPS has given its employees’ families, including donating $117,000 to the organization this year.
Steven F. Gaffney, DynCorp’s chief executive, said about 69 of the company’s employees have died over the past decade or so.
The contractor sells red shirts that everyone — including Gaffney — wears on Fridays to show support for those who serve. DynCorp donates $10 for every sale to TAPS.
Gaffney heard about the organization about three years ago from an employee. He said he immediately thought, “This sounds like a perfect group” for DynCorp to support.
Now, the company continues its red shirt sales effort, but also sponsors TAPS events. Butler said she still tries to attend some TAPS events and keeps in touch with about a half-dozen people she met through the organization.
Gaffney said TAPS is meaningful for those like Butler, but also to employees.
“Sixty-five percent of [our] workforce [are] veterans and the others — even though they didn’t serve — many believe they serve that mission though the civilian workforce,” Gaffney said.