Military Widows Hit the Open Road

Young war widows travel cross-country spreading hope and building bonds.

ByABC News
March 24, 2009, 12:17 PM

March 25, 2009— -- The women of the American Widow Project, an online support network and nonprofit organization dedicated to unifying a new generation of widows, are far from traditional. They surf, skydive and now road-trip to honor their husbands, who died serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Widows Taryn Davis and Nicole Hart, both 23, will spend most of the next few months driving cross-country, sleeping in campgrounds and knocking on doors. They are traveling to military towns, offering understanding and hope to an ever-growing band of sisters.

"I really believe if we can lessen the pain and lessen the grief that just one widow can go through, then we are accomplishing our mission," Davis told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff.

Click here for more information on the American Widow Project.

Davis and Hart are traveling in a black RV custom-painted with the names of more than 4,000 of the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan, including their husbands, Cpl. Michael Davis of San Marcos, Texas, and Sgt. David Hart of Lake View Terrace, Calif.

"We really just hope to, if anything, not have them disappear," Davis said.

Stacey Markham was one of the first women to find her husband's name, Sgt. Jonathan Markham, on the list. "It is amazing that everybody's name is up there," she said. "Wherever this RV is at, people will be reminded, not just, 'Oh, we lost another soldier today, but look at all these families that have suffered this loss."

Davis and Hart launched the road trip last month in San Marcos, Texas, where Davis met and fell in love with her husband. In a moving ceremony, surrounded by widows and veterans groups, San Marcos' mayor Susan Narvaiz presented the widows with the key to the city.

More than 30 Patriot Guard Riders -- a national organization of motorcycle riders who honor the sacrifice of the military and their families -- stood with flags and wearing leather jackets as the widows spoke, ready to escort them on the first leg of their journey.

Putting the large RV in reverse, Davis said, "All righty. Let's do this."

It was nearly two years ago that two soldiers in Class-A uniforms approached Davis' home with devastating news.

"One of them had his head down and the other one was shaking," Davis said. "And then the words that I think are burned into every widow's and widower's mind: 'The secretary of defense regrets to inform you your husband, Michael Davis, was killed.'"

Many widows have shared their memories of those words with Davis.

"I heard the dogs bark and I looked out the window and I saw a white van and there were two soldiers in it and I knew," said Nina Carr, widow of Sgt. Robert M. Carr. "Like my heart dropped to the floor."

Csilla Lyerly, widow of Capt. Sean Lyerly, said, "I just fell to the floor and I was just screaming, `No, no, no, no.' And I paused, and I looked at them, like, `Ma'am we regret to inform you.' `No, no, no, no,' I am just screaming at the top of my lungs."

"I said, `now what do I do?'" recalled Jessica Ardron, widow of Sgt. Brian Ardron. "And, he said, `Well, we are going to have a casualty officer call you.' And, I said, `No, what do I do with my life?'"