Taryn Davis, founder of The American Widow Project, was one of five finalists vying for DoSomething.org's $100,000 grant prize. The organization announced the winner on VH1 on Thursday.
When you enter your twenties, for me at least, the pieces of life all started to come together. I had married my best friend and soul mate, was about to graduate college and pursue a career in criminal justice, had a great family and two wonderful dogs. I had it all in the most simplistic form and looked forward to the life ahead me... ahead of us.
My husband was deployed to Iraq and the first eight months had flown by, so the next seven would be a piece of cake. Though I was working and going to school and my other half was across the world, it only strengthened our bond and love and made the moments in which we were able to see each other over Skype or hear his voice over the phone, ones I deeply cherished. So May 21st, 2007, was like any other day with a spouse serving overseas. We talked on instant messenger about the mundane things: what shows I watched on TV the night before, how the dogs were doing, how he was doing, and how much we love each other. At 7:35 am he abruptly had to sign off. It was normal. I went on with my day and ended the night at my parents.
At 10:30pm I'd receive a call from my neighbor asking me to come home. At 11pm I'd arrive home to see two men, wearing the same uniform my husband had worn to our wedding a year and a half before, waiting to tell me that an hour after we last spoke his vehicle was hit by thousands of pounds of detonation and he would be returning home in a flag-covered casket.
I died that night in my front yard.
Four months later with no desire to continue living, I Googled "Widow" in hopes to just see someone like me: 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?"
That was the catalyst to me creating what I so yearned for: a place to share our hopes and dreams, our tragedies and love stories, a place to pick up the shattered pieces and find the desire to live once more.
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. We don't have counselors or put these women in a room to talk about grief; we 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.
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.
Their husbands gave their lives for the lives of their fellow servicemembers. 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.
The VH1 Do Something Awards are giving us a platform to reach more military widows, to provide them with a lifetime of services provided through the American Widow Project, and most importantly, a way to let them know they are not alone.
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. We want to reach them all, to allow them to know the services and camaraderie they have waiting for them are here, among those who know the true depth of the loss, love and pain. Winning the award would get us one step closer to doing that faster than we could have ever dreamed. One day, we will reach them all.
"to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again."