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Life in Action: American Widow Project
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Letters from military widows drape the walls of 26-year-old Taryn Davis’ small, East Austin office. They are a reminder of the common loss each of them has faced.
"When you hear widow, I mean for me I thought of a 90-year-old woman with 100 cats surrounding her,” Davis said. “I never envisioned someone like me."
Davis was 21 her husband was killed in Iraq. Now she works as founder and executive director of the American Widow Project to help others who are going through similar circumstances.
"We've definitely put military widows on the map, which is one of our goals,” she said, “to smash the stigma of what people think when they think of widows."
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, nearly 3,000 military spouses have lost their companions during the global war on terror. The average age of service members killed—26. Davis hopes those statistics will form new perceptions of the word “widow.”
The American Widow Project has grabbed the attention from media outlets around the world, but getting there wasn't easy. First, Taryn hit rock bottom.
"I know I at least had to try to live for Michael, until I could find a reason to live for myself."
An idea was sparked as she looked for a way to connect with other military widows.
"It started about 3 months after Michael was killed,” Davis said. “I Googled "widow". When Google came back with 'did you mean window?' it really reinforced that there was a definite need."
For the past several years, Davis has traveled the country and organized small peer-support gatherings to help women who lost the one they've loved most in the war. Activities like skydiving, and ziplining help reigniting the light Davis says has faded from many of their eyes.
"We bring them together in an intimate setting, where they're not a statistic, and allow them to see that they can survive and thrive after this," she said.
Now, continuing in her passion, she has plans to bring American Widows from around the country here, to Central Texas, for a new program called "Widow-U," giving them the tools they need to thrive.
"We want them to go out there and take the fuel they have inside of them through what they've been through and use it to be some of the most amazing and successful people out there," Davis said.
You can help the American Widow Project provide resources toward a healing journey through widowhood by making a donation. They also need volunteers for their gatherings.
For more information on how you can help, or to refer a military widow you know, visit AmericanWidowProject.org.