Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Death Benefits For Families of Military Fallen Shut Down

Five American warriors have been struck down within the last few days in Afghanistan: a Marine, LCpl Jeremiah Collins, Jr, whose death is under investigation, and four members assigned to B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Rangers – SGT Patrick Hawkins and PFC Cody Patterson of the Rangers, 1LT Jennifer Moreno of the Cultural Support Team attached to the unit, and Special Agent Joseph Peters of Army CID, 5th MP Battalion. 

The four soldiers were struck down in a mission against an insurgent plot to attack an Afghan official, in the Zhari district near Kandahar.  Initial casualties were sustained when a platoon attacked the objective only to have enemy pre-set charges command detonated. As troops responded to the scene, at least one suicide attack detonated in their midst.  Early reports indicated at least four enemy KIA but have recently specified that the number of enemy killed and wounded is unknown.  Besides our four soldiers killed, some 30 were wounded, making this a Mass Casualty event, a dreaded but rare occurrence.  Ironically, one of the more notable Mass-Cas events occurred with this same unit, B/3/75, when they fought their way out of the Blackhawk Down incident in Mogadishu in 1993.
 
Cody Patterson on the left, his final companion to the right
 
This news hits our family personally in several ways, though we were perversely fortunate that it was not directly.  We knew Cody Patterson, though not intimately, but our children have been friends with him and his siblings.  Captain of the football team, he was a popular guy, elected "Mr Philomath High School" as a fundraiser for a children's hospital, and he volunteered to teach wilderness skills to children during the summer, alongside one of his friends – my son.  That son of mine is now engaged in his final act of comradeship: a member of the same deployed battalion of Rangers, he is escorting Cody home.  Another son at Fort Hood is trying to make it back here to meet them. 

As a community in this small town, as most small towns will do, we are reaching out to each other to make this final journey what it should be, and I and my family have been busy with all the others today. 

Imagine my bitter shock to find that death benefits to our soldiers are being withheld due to the shutdown.  A previous bill from the Republicans in the House to fully fund the military during this political showboat was passed through the Senate and signed by Obama, and that should have taken care of the problem.  But this morning an unnamed "Pentagon official" announced that the interpretation of the bill from another unnamed budgeteer holds that death benefits and reimbursements cannot be paid to the families of the deceased. 

Within moments, Democrats took to the microphones to hang this on the Republicans.  A less cynical person than I would interpret this as another political opportunity to make this shutdown "as painful as possible" in order to score points in a most despicable way.
 
The interpretation hinges on the idea that the bill approved pay to active members of the military, but not to their families.  Republicans such as Speaker Boehner and Representative Buck McKeon (R-California) said that it was the clear intent of the bill to include death benefits.  After all, wouldn't it be a consideration that the payment would be to the estate of the deceased?  Some news reports state that the House was "warned", but Boehner and others said that this discussion was prior to the event and the subject of death benefits was specifically addressed.  Part of the outrage stems from the fact that some bureaucratic drones have ambushed this situation in what amounts to them telling Congress, which makes the laws, what the law should mean despite the clear direction from the lawmakers.

Specifically curtailed is an immediate $100,000 payment to the family to cover funeral and associated expenses, as well as all accrued and unpaid income and allowances. Additionally affected are expenses for travel to Dover AFB in Delaware (where all of our fallen are processed) to meet the remains and accompany them; cost of funeral expenses such as memorial services, caskets, and the like; and travel expenses for families to the bedsides of severely wounded servicemembers in US military hospitals in Germany. 

This needs to be fixed – now.  Waiting for the politicians to solve the overall budget problem will not help PFC Patterson's family, and the families of the other fallen comrades, who need this blithering obstacle removed.  They are dealing with too much already to have this bureaucratic insanity attack them.
 
Contact your Representatives and Senators.  Raise holy Hell.
 

4 comments:

  1. I'm sorry for your loss. It's a sad story.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Dick. I'll pass that along to the family.

      Delete
  2. I just remembered something. Back in 2003 when my 1968 Infantry OCS class at Benning had its first (35th) reunion, which was at Benning, we went out to our old barracks just to look around and found that the 75th Ranger Regt. had taken it over. We were tickled about that, since a lot of the old OCS barracks (there'd been a lot of them during the war) were boarded up and not in use. I don't know if the Rangers still use our old barracks or not, or if they stopped when they stopped.

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    Replies
    1. The Rangers just moved back into one of them for overflow, otherwise they're all down the road "behind the brown fence" on the way toward the airfield. When I visited a couple years ago, the rest of the barracks were occupied by OCS and Airborne School.

      Delete

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