Military graves, Arlington
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Grief camp helps families cope with military suicide

In a hotel lobby just outside Washington DC, Kim Ruocco walks through a crowd of people, hugging many, and consoling a few.

Most are families of fallen soldiers, gathered at a conference held by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, also known as TAPS. For the past 20 years, it has taken place on Memorial Day weekend, a federal holiday dedicated to those who died while serving in the US Armed Forces.

Ruocco is working at the conference, as TAPS Manager for Suicide Outreach and Education Program, but she is also a survivor of tragedy herself - her husband, a US Marine, died by suicide in 2005.

A study by the US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that an average of 22 military veterans committed suicide every day between 1999 and 2010 - that figure includes veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars as well as the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The BBC talked with Kim Ruocco about her journey from grieving mother and widow to counsellor and outspoken activist.

Produced for the BBC by Leigh Paterson

  • 26 May 2014
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