By Joel Hillan

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Families of fallen U.S. service members from Colorado and around the region are gathering this weekend at the Hilton Inverness in Englewood for a seminar put on by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). They are forging connections, learning coping strategies, and honoring loved ones.

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(credit: CBS)

Started in 1994 by Barbara Carroll after losing her husband Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll to an aviation accident in Alaska, TAPS has been helping those left behind for nearly 25 years.

Renee and Matthew Moncynski were stationed in Hawaii when they met and married.

“I was 22 years old, and my husband was 23,” said Renee.

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(credit: Barbara Carroll)

He was an aircraft technician for the Navy. She was a marine.

“We were at the top of our game, until we weren’t. We had a beautiful baby girl born in May, and in June he died in an aviation accident,” said Renee.

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(credit: Barbara Carroll)

Ten years after being discharged so she could take care of the baby, Renee joined the reserves.

“Not only did I find the reserves, I also found TAPS and within TAPS I found a community that understood and that allowed me to just be.”

TAPS would not only be there for Renee, but for her daughter Ashley as well. Like for Prom this last spring.

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(credit: Barbara Carroll)

“It was fantastic because the date showed up, and there’s these two military guys and then he’s like, ‘Oh, hi, how’s it going?'”

Renee says it was a way for Matthew to be there even though he couldn’t.

“He still lives with us. He’s there. He’s there in her smile. He’s there in her eyes. Anytime that she reminds me of him, I tell her so I can identify that.”

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Barbara Carroll (credit: CBS)

Renee now works with young adults through TAPS, helping them to transition to adulthood by focusing on what they call the five pillars.

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“Personal development, financial development, career development, self care and then service to others.”

Because each of them is part of a legacy of service and sacrifice.

Joel Hillan anchors CBS4 This Morning on weekends as well as reports stories for CBS4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. Follow Joel on Twitter @joelhillan.

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