To deal with his own grief, soldier helps children of fallen military members through theirs

(Image: John Rhoten)
(Image: John Rhoten)

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS (HawaiiNewsNow) - Schofield Army Capt. John Rhoten remembers the deep grief he felt after four soldiers from his platoon were killed in Afghanistan in 2007.

It wasn't until 2011, when he started volunteering with the non-profit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, that he processed his personal pain.

"It has helped me work through my grief and my own losses that I have had in the military, and also in my personal life," he said.

TAPS pairs military members with children and teenagers who have lost a parent in the Armed Forces.

As mentors, they provide a support system.

And the work Rhoten is doing is getting noticed.

Out of 9,200 TAPS mentors in all branches of service, the organization selected Rhoten as its 2018 Mentor of the Year.

"To be the one that's chosen is very humbling," he said.

Rhoten, 36,  is an intelligence officer with the 25th Infantry Division. He is married and the father of two young children.

"When you read about the kids, their loss, and how the loss occurred. It's heartwrenching," he said.

As part of his work with TAPS, Rhoten contacts families on the anniversary of a service member's death and important dates like school graduations.

He does that for every child — until they become young adults.

"I think it's important for them to know that we're still here and we still support them, and your loved one's service mattered," Rhoten said.

And for the past six years, Rhoten has helped the children of Air Force Staff Sgt. Raymond Briggs, who died in a car accident.

"By having mentors like John it allowed us to have someone we can call on when my dad could no longer be here," Chelsea Briggs said.

Since he joined TAPS, Rhoten has mentored more than 100 young people. He's looking forward to mentoring many more.

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