Taryn Davis was 23 when her husband, Spc. Michael Davis, was killed May 21, 2007 in Iraq.
Following his death, she traveled the country and heard stories from other young widows. Their experiences led to the development of a non-profit organization, a documentary film, a Web site and a sisterhood.
Davis learned she is not alone. The American Widow Project brings together the new generation of widows – young women who have lost the loves of their lives but not their hope.
Through the Web site, www.awp.staging.wpengine.com, widows talk to others who share their loss, grief, hope and eternal love.
These women support and encourage each other and even share dark humor.
The site covers everything to consider from the funeral to more than two years after a servicemember’s death, such as what to do with his belongings and dating.
There are no meetings or groups to attend with AWP, but the widows have bonded and do have get-togethers.
When LaNita Herlem first came across the AWP Web site in January 2008, she was approaching the two-year anniversary of the day her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Bryant Herlem, was killed.
“I read all of it,” she said. “I spent 10 or 12 hours.”
For Herlem, the site was a missing piece. “It was my intro to other widows,” she said.
While the Soldiers in her husband’s unit kept her connected to Bryant; AWP keeps her connected to herself.
“They just get it,” LaNita said.
LaNita loves the fact that AWP is available around-the-clock and that support is all widow-to-widow.
“It’s talking to people who have been through it,” she said. “It’s my connection to other widows. They understand.”
AWP has put a new face to the concept of a “widow.”
These women are young; many of them were just starting their lives with their husbands and now they are moving forward. They feel honored to be widows.
“For me, being a widow means that Bryan chose to spend his life with me,” LaNita said. “I see it as an honor and privilege to be his widow.”
Together, they laugh, cry and encourage each other, but mostly they remember and honor their husbands through the sisterhood of AWP.
They have remained visible, ensuring neither they nor their husbands are forgotten.
The American Widow Project 75-minute documentary film is available without charge to Gold Star Families. Visit www.awp.staging.wpengine.com to order.