SAN ANTONIO — Thousands of San Antonians released lanterns along the River Walk at this year's Confucius Wishing Lanterns event, held Saturday evening. Among the crowd were 60 families of fallen military heroes honoring their loved ones and their sacrifice for our country.
Dozens of family members with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) gathered on the third floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel earlier in the day to write messages, memories and well wishes for their loved ones on gold-trimmed lanterns.
"We miss hearing his voice, hearing him walk through the door, being silly at the dinner table. That's some of the things we wrote on our lanterns tonight," Cheryl Lankford said.
Lankford's husband, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Lankford, died while serving in Iraq 11 years ago.
She was smiling ear-to-ear as she recalled the moment her and her husband were set up on their first date by a mutual friend.
"We had actually met before and we didn't even realize," Lankford said. "It was just meant to be."
She said the organization helps her and her son, Jonathan Jr., process their loss while helping other grieving families.
"I don't know where my son would be right now if we didn't have a group of people that loved and cared for us to help us in our journey of grief," Lankford said.
Together, the 60 families joined thousands of people along the River Walk to send their lanterns paying tribute to their loved ones and the life they shared together.
"I hope families know that they are others who are going through exactly what they are going through," Lankford said. "As unique as this feels when we separate from one another, we're still in this together."
TAPS is the leading national organization providing care and survivor support services for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. Since 1994, it has offered support to more than 85,000 survivors of fallen military.
The organization has a 24/7 helpline at 1-800-959-TAPS.