In the News

Recognizing Gold Star Families this Memorial Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jim Baird and Whip Scalise co-authored an op-ed for The Hill: 

On Memorial Day, we honor the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. From the Revolutionary War all the way to the War on Terror, we remember those who died to preserve our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Congress must always do everything we can to support the families of these fallen heroes.

Our Gold Star families are connected by shared experiences of loss, grief, and sadness, and their sacrifices are incredibly understated; not only do they shoulder the painful price of losing their loved ones, but their new and heartbreaking circumstances often plunge them into uncertainty. This Memorial Day, we must recommit to honoring the fallen by taking care of those they left behind.

The loss of a loved one is already extremely difficult for a service member’s family, yet this loss can also cause financial distress especially if the soldier, sailor, marine, or airman was the sole breadwinner. Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers several monetary VA benefits for widows and surviving spouses of wartime veterans. These include dependency and indemnity compensation, survivors’ pensions, and burial benefits.

Tragically, after service members die in the line of duty, many of their spouses are forced to leave their homes where they share precious memories as a family, forced to relocate so they can be closer to family for support or simply because they can no longer afford the cost of living in their area. Unfortunately, due to a loophole in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, widows and widowers were forced to pay out-of-pocket for canceling their lease, an unnecessary and costly burden placed on Gold Star families who already suffered a tremendous loss.

That’s why in 2018, Democrats and Republicans came together to pass the Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act, which extended residential leasing protections to surviving spouses of service members killed in the line of duty. Additionally, the U.S. House of Representatives created the Gold Star Family Fellowship Program in 2019 to uplift military family members and give them a full-time, year-long paid fellowship in their congressional office. This fellowship gives members of Congress a unique perspective that will help us ensure we’re meeting the needs of current and former service members as well as offer employment to a family member of deceased patriots.

It is imperative that Congress always takes steps to address hardships facing the husbands, wives, parents, and children of fallen soldiers. America’s honored dead have given everything to our country. As the nation’s democratic representatives, it is critical that we guarantee the same absolute commitment to their families in return.

This Memorial Day, as we gather with friends and family, may we be ever grateful to those who have paid the price for the freedoms we hold so dear. Out of a deep love for their country and dedication to its founding principles, these heroes gave their lives that this nation might endure. May we never forget their sacrifices or the burdens their families face. 

Steve Scalise is the House Republican Whip and Jim Baird represents the 4th District of Indiana. A Vietnam veteran, Baird earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts for his valor.

(This article originally appeared on the Hill's website. This article can be viewed here.