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Hillary Clinton "emotional" at event for families of fallen military

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks before receiving a Lifetime Service Award from TAPS, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, in New York.

AP

Hillary Clinton received a lifetime achievement award from a group that provides support for the families of fallen military service members on Wednesday, thanking the survivors for sharing their often heart-wrenching stories and praising the organization's work.

The award was presented in New York City by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a group that provides "peer-based emotional support" and "grief and trauma resources" for the families of the departed, according to its website. Clinton has previously served as the group's honorary chairwoman.

Clinton said the event was particularly "emotional" for her, according to the Associated Press, especially given the birth of her granddaughter last Friday. It was the former secretary of state's first public appearance since her daughter Chelsea gave birth to a baby girl, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky.

"This a great privilege, but it is also for me emotional as we celebrate the birth of our granddaughter and as I look out and see all of you who are thinking of your loved ones and the life that he or she lived," she said, according to ABC News. "It's really important to me that we never forget your loved ones and we never forget you."

Clinton nodded at her work on the Armed Services Committee when she was a senator from New York, recalling her work with TAPS and other groups to increase survivor benefits for the families of fallen service members.

"We fought, we cajoled," she said, adding that they eventually secured an increase in immediate survivor benefits from $12,000 to $100,000.

Several attendees shared their stories of loss with Clinton. One man described his nephew's frustrating experience with the Veteran's Affairs medical system, which has been buffeted this year by scandal after reports revealed crushing wait times and employee misconduct at VA facilities.

"If you run, and I hope you do, fix the VA and fix the mental health system," he said, according to Buzzfeed. "My nephew was lost, and let me tell you something...he really got screwed."

Another woman told Clinton it had been two years since her brother's suicide.

"Did he get any help at all?" Clinton asked.

"Not the right help," the woman said.

Bonnie Carroll, the president and founder of TAPS, thanked Clinton for her previous work with the group.

"We count you as family," she told Clinton," and we love you a great deal."