On May 21, 2007, Taryn Davis' husband was killed by multiple roadside bombs in Iraq and the San Marcos native became a widow at age 21.
Feeling lost and alone, she began traveling the country, talking with other Iraq and Afghanistan war widows, ultimately finding strength in those connections. She formed the non-profit organization American Widow Project to help other women who receive the devastating news they have lost a loved one.
Already the group has produced a documentary covering the lives and everyday struggles on war widows that is available to the recently widowed and the organization recently received an RV emblazoned with the names of the fallen from all five branches of the armed forces that travels the country to promote awareness of the group Davis describes as "a new generation of war widows." Her efforts have gained nationwide media exposure including an upcoming segment on ABC's nightly news broadcast.
Davis was on TCU's campus this week thanks to the efforts of Christina Sessums, a senior social work major, who was moved by her appearance on Larry King Live. She brought Davis to TCU to speak in the fall, but wanted to do more. Together they came up with a hands-on way the Horned Frog community could help the families dealing with their grief - making Daddy Memory Bears.
On Wednesday and again on Thursday, more than 50 students met Davis and two other widows to hear their stories and help add the special touches to each bear - a photo of the fallen soldier and his child. The effort was partially funded by an $850 grant from Junior Transitions and Student Community Involvement/Service Learning.
Heather Brown, a junior social work major, helped coordinate the bear drive and recruit volunteers.
"These widows have made the ultimate sacrifice," she said. "We wanted to do something to honor and support them."
Christina Sesssums shows how to assemble the Daddy Memory Bears while members of the American Widow Project look on.