The Boston Celtics beat the Toronto Raptors in a thrilling overtime game Friday night, and a special group of fans were courtside to take it all in thanks to retired Gen. Martin Dempsey and Celtics.

The Celtics and Dempsey, who is a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and current special adviser to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, hosted 16 family members from The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

TAPS provides support and compassionate care to those who have lost a loved one while serving in our Armed Forces, or as a results of his or her service. Since 1994, the organization has helped more than 80,000 surviving families, casualty officers and caregivers.



“If you’re a member of the military and you’ve lost someone — it can be anything from combat to disease to suicide, then TAPS wraps their arms around these survivors,” Dempsey told the Boston Herald. “The NBA, the referees, the franchises have events every year where they bring in survivors and talk to them, let the players meet them.”

Prior to Friday night’s contest, which was also Seats for Soldiers Night, the group met Celtics players and enjoyed a nice dinner at TD Garden before taking their courtside seats. They also received a touching standing ovation from the crowd.



“You wouldn’t want to erase the memory of a loved one,” Dempsey added. “But you can pile positive memories on top of the loss, and TAPS piles positive memories on them, mostly kids, to go forward. We’re having a dinner, and then the kids will sit courtside and watch their heroes play basketball. Pile some good memories on top of what have been some very painful memories.”

And a Celtics win was just icing on the cake.

Dempsey, who retired last year after a 41-year military career, was elected chairman of USA Basketball on Monday. He replaces Jerry Colangelo in the role.