The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and Redskins Salute on Wednesday hosted seven TAPS families for a military appreciation event at Top Golf in Ashburn, Va.
Veteran's Day will never be easy for Tina Mengel-Vickery.
The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and Redskins Salute hosted seven military families at the Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors (TAPS) Military Appreciation Event Nov. 11, 2015, at Top Golf in Ashburn, Va.
On Nov. 9, 2013, her husband, Cory, so affected by the post-traumatic stress disorder and depression that came with two tours in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine, took his own life.
And in the two years since Cory's passing, Mengel-Vickery has made it her mission to help other families going through similar tough times – and to help prevent the epidemic of PTSD from taking more veterans' lives.
On Wednesday – on Veteran's Day – Mengel-Vickery, with the couple's beautiful 3-year-old daughter, McKenzie, at her side, represented one of seven military families selected to take part in the TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors) Military Appreciation Event hosted by the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and Redskins Salute at Top Golf in Ashburn, Va.
"It means a lot," Mengel-Vickery said of Wednesday's event. "This day especially is one that's hard for every family, especially if you have somebody that's in the service or that sacrificed their time or their life. It's something to look forward to other than the sadness of the day."
For Mengel-Vickery, Wednesday's event had extra meaning. A huge Redskins fan herself, she said watching games with Cory became one of their favorite activities together.
So having five Redskins players in attendance at the event – quarterback Colt McCoy, wide receiver Andre Roberts, long snapper Nick Sundberg, punter Tress Way and fullback Darrel Young – was icing on the cake.
"It's so much fun," Mengel-Vickery said with a big smile on her face. "And to be doing this with TAPS, an organization I've known for a couple of years now, to be doing this with the Redskins especially, it's a fun experience to have them honor our families and fallen heroes — especially on Veteran's Day."
But for the Redskins players at the event, the pleasure of Wednesday's event was all theirs.
Roberts, whose parents both served in the Army, knows all about the military family lifestyle. Recently selected as the Redskins' Salute to Service Award nominee, presented by USAA, The Citadel product has spent much of his NFL career doing what he can to make an impact on those who have served and their families.
"Being a part of the military family, I've had friends in that same situation," Roberts said. "I do get what they're going through. But, at the same time, like you said, I just want to be there to brighten them up if they have any questions, if they want to talk to me about anything, any of their experiences, I'm there."
Wednesday's TAPS Military Appreciation Event was the perfect opportunity for the TAPS families and the Redskins players to have a personal experience together – all while having fun.
The evening started with dinner and games – virtual dancing and bowling – and transitioned into several rounds of Top Golf at their new Ashburn facility.
With smiles all around, it was an ideal way to honor the fallen military members and their families represented on Wednesday.
"These families made the ultimate sacrifice, and there's no greater feeling than to be able to give back to a group of people that have given something so dear," said Jane Rodgers, executive director of the WRCF. "So on this Veteran's Day, to spend the day with them, it does more, I think, for us, than it does for them, and we're just pleased that we're able to do something to hopefully make this day a little brighter for them."
Diana Hosford, director of teams4taps – which establishes and maintains relationships between sports teams and professional athletes with families of America's Fallen Heroes – said the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation has "been incredibly supportive of TAPS," and Wednesday's event was just the latest example of this partnership.
"They did an incredible event last year and are continuing to do special things for our fallen heroes this year," Hosford said. "It's a tremendous honor for all of us with military charities, especially charities like TAPS that cares for families of the fallen, to have the heroes recognized and remembered and to have their families honored."
Those interested in helping support TAPS – either through volunteering or donations – can do so by clicking here.