The price of combat

Friday, February 11, 2005

A congressional committee in Washington listened last week as uniformed military personnel and family members testified about the benefits provided when a combat death occurs.

Currently, there is a tax-free death gratuity of $12,420. A proposal would increase that to $100,000, but only when the death occurs in a designated war zone. Another proposal would raise life insurance benefits available for all service members to $400,000 from $250,000.

Giving testimony was Jennifer McCollum, widow of Marine Capt. Dan McCollum, one of the first casualties of Operation Enduring Freedom. She raised still another concern: the lack of attention paid by the military to following up with casualty assistance. In her own case, Mrs. McCollum said, her assistance officer was deployed shortly after being assigned to her case.

With an all-volunteer military placed in harm's way around the globe, it behooves Congress to find ways to adequately compensate for the loss of lives and to eliminate the cracks that too many survivors fall through.

The lives of the men and women serving in the U.S. military are priceless. The compassion of a grateful nation should be generous.