25th ID officer is TAPS Mentor of Year

| March 1, 2018 | 0 Comments

Capt. John Rhoten high-fives another participant during the National Military Survivors Seminar in Washington D.C., Memorial Day, 2017.

25th Infantry Division
Public Affairs

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Capt. John Rhoten has been named the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) 2018 Mentor of the Year.

Rhoten, an intelligence officer in the 25th Infantry Division’s G2, will be recognized for his volunteer service on behalf of the surviving children of fallen members of the Armed Forces at a TAPS Honor Guard Luncheon, March 6, in Washington, D.C.

“I continue to volunteer because it’s a passion,” Rhoten said. “We, as military members, still care about them and still think of them as part of the military family.”

TAPS hosts events throughout the country that give many opportunities for survivors to attend: TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp; the National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp; TAPS Regional Survivor Seminars and Good Grief Camps; and TAPS Retreats for surviving spouses, parents, adult children and siblings.

Rhoten has been a TAPS mentor since 2011 after he returned from an Afghanistan deployment.

Capt. John Rhoten (Center), 25th Infantry Division, speaks with GEN. Joseph Dunford (right), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a TAPS event in May, 2017.

“We lost four guys in our platoon and (received) 25 Purple Hearts,” he said. “One of my Soldiers that was killed had two daughters, and my best friend’s fiancé had a daughter.”

The time after his deployment was tough, he said, because of the unit’s losses. After learning to cope with the loss, Rhoten said he was in a “good place” and wanted to help others deal with loss.

“I do it as a way of paying it forward. If anything were to happen to me, I know there are people there that would help take care of my family.”

Rhoten is now a TAPS group leader and a role model to other TAPS military mentors. He also has support from his family; he’s married with children of his own. His wife is a teacher and has also been around children who have lost parents while serving their country.

“My wife realized that interacting with Gold Star Families is important volunteer work for me, and she understands that TAPS has provided me a median to be a mentor and help me stay in a good place.”

TAPS mentors are paired with Gold Star children and work with them as often as possible.

“Spending time with my mentee and watching him grow into a young adult has been such a rewarding experience for me,” said Rhoten, who was paired with Mark Capra at a TAPS Good Grief Camp and who remained his mentor from 2012 to 2014.

Capra’s father, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Anthony Capra, died in April 2008 in Iraq.

Mark Capra said, “Children need to know that it is OK to have the feelings that they have, to reinforce that their loved one’s service mattered and that they will never be forgotten. We owe that to our fellow Soldiers.”

Today, Capra is a college student who is paying it forward by also serving as a mentor to other children who have lost a loved one in the military.

Meanwhile, being named TAPS Mentor of the Year is a bonus, Rhoten said, but it’s not his reason for volunteering.

“If I didn’t have bills to pay, I’d do this for a living,” he explained.

He is also humbled, and said TAPS has many accomplished volunteers.

“I think there are so many other great mentors out there that are deserving, and I’m really at a loss of words.”

(Editor’s note: TAPS contributed to this article.)

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