For the most part, I’ve kept my mouth shut about the Shutdown. I dislike politics, and dislike talking about them even more. This doesn’t mean I don’t have my opinions, it just means I’d rather keep them to myself and observe until my voice is needed. And today, I couldn’t keep quiet any longer.
There are many things about this Shutdown that upset me, but today I was downright stricken. The latest impact of the Shutdown has left me disgusted, appalled, and frankly ashamed of our leadership: families of fallen service members are being denied death benefits. I can’t even fathom this, can’t comprehend the logic of how our government can expect it’s military to continue fighting and then disregard their death so flippantly.
So today I am speaking up, and I am asking you to as well. I have written to my Senators, my Congressman, to the White House directly. I urge you to please do as well: here is information for members of Congress and the White House. Share this information with others. Consider donating to the Fisher House, who is so graciously attempting to help offset these costs for families. Say a prayer for these families, for our military, and for the leadership of our country.
This is the letter I wrote today. Congress, I know I’m just a single drop in the sea of voices, but I hope one of you actually reads my words. And I hope they make you think.
‘Appalled’ does even begin to describe the visceral reaction I felt this morning upon learning of the discontinuation of the Death Gratuity benefit for families of fallen service members. As a Gold Star military widow, I know firsthand just how devastating this cessation will be to families already enduring a horrible tragedy. To deny these surviving families of crucial funds designed to assist them in the most debilitating hours of loss is the most revolting effect of the Shutdown yet.
Are you aware of exactly what these families will lose when the Death Gratuity benefit is denied them? They lose the funds necessary to travel to Dover, Delaware to greet the body of their fallen husband, wife, son, daughter, father, or mother as he or she touches down on American soil for the first time after dying for our country. They lose the funds for funeral costs and other expenses necessary to give their loved one the hero’s farewell he or she deserves. They lose the funds needed to pay bills, purchase groceries, and complete the life-sustaining tasks that are no longer supported by the service member’s income. They lose the slight bit of comfort that should have been afforded to them, allowing them to breathe knowing they can take care of their family while grieving. But perhaps, most of all, these families denied benefits guaranteed to their service member before his or her death are going to lose faith in the very country their hero just died for.
I urge you to stand up for the men and women who have given their life for you, for me, and for our country. I urge you to do what is right for their families. Reinstate the Death Gratuity Benefit as quickly as possible. In addition, please take a moment to reach out to the families affected and offer your sincere apologies. I can guarantee that this experience has intensified their already agonizing wounds, but perhaps your sincere words of regret, supported by your actions, can help begin the long journey of healing.
Update edit — While the House unanimously passed a bill today to restore death benefits, it has yet to pass Senate. But meanwhile, the Pentagon has made a deal with Fisher House for full restoration of benefits to the families with the DoD to reimburse the charity after the Shutdown.