Stories, Tears, Laughter

The grief surrounding the loss of a loved one is particularly acute during the holiday season — and perhaps there are few losses as hard to bear as that of a spouse who dies in service to his or her country.

That fact alone gives plenty relevance to the revamped Web site of the American Widow Project, an outreach to the “new generation” of military widows “with an emphasis on healing through sharing stories, tears and laughter.”

The project was the brainchild of San Marcos native Taryn Davis, whose husband Michael was killed at the age of 22 by a roadside bomb near Baghdad, Iraq in May 2007.

Less than a year after she eloquently spoke at a service for her husband at the Hays County Veterans Memorial, Davis launched the project and its Web presence at

In February of this year, Davis and other widows took off on a nationwide tour in a specially equipped RV on which were the names of soldiers who have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among those on hand were ABC correspondent Bob Woodruff, himself the victim of a roadside bomb, who later profiled the project on the evening news.

Though the original version of the Web site drew more than a million “hits” in its first 18 months, Davis said this week that the upgrade is designed to make it easier for widows to connect with one another.

“The first site was for me, after Michael was killed,” she said. “It was a messy desk just like my life. I don’t think we anticipated the amount of feedback” it would generate, she said.

The revamped site features more stories from widows about their best and worst days and links to other resources.

It’s also designed with a montage of photos that, Davis noted, will be different each and every time the page is accessed. As new photos are received, they’ll be added.

It also provides easy links to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“I just want this to be the next level of interaction for widows,” said Davis, a 2003 graduate of San Marcos High School who has since moved to Buda. “We want them to come on and feel that instant connection.”

Apparently that is working. Davis said shows visitation up 2,000 percent since the launch of the redesign.

As comprehensive as the site is, Davis and the other widows aren’t stopping there. “We do secret Santas every year,” she said, and while the initial contact between widows might be over the Internet, the small gifts they receive are very real.

Also, she’s currently busy planning events for 2010. In January, for example, widows will be going to swim with dolphins in Orlando, Fla. “Then there’s the rodeo in Houston in March. It will be a huge event with lots of widows coming in.”

In the early part of the new year Davis will also be traveling to Miami as part of a university lecture series on the challenges of the homefront during war.

Her speech, she says, will provide “an idea of the real perils and real back story. So, it’s a busy year in front of us.”


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