Pentagon Refuses to Pay Transport for Fallen Marine to Arlington National Cemetery

pentagon nicole gee
Screenshot YouTube : CBS Sacramento

Just shy of two years ago, 13 service members were murdered by a suicide bomber at Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan. While many of us who served during the Forever War still carry the moral stain of our botched withdrawal with us, the Biden administration has seemingly forgotten all about it.

For the 13 Gold Star families who no longer have their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters with them, the reality of their loss is real every day. To add insult to injury, one family had to turn to a nonprofit organization to help pay for the transport of their fallen daughter to Arlington National Cemetery.

In addition to carrying the unimaginable weight of loss, these families are forced to grapple with the financial hardship of having their heroes buried alongside our nation’s finest. It would seem our country’s leaders quite literally have no shame.

Pony up

The Department of Defense declined to pay for transporting the remains of fallen Marine Corps Sergeant Nicole Gee to Arlington. Originally sent to her hometown in California for a family ceremony, the Pentagon refused to shell out the finances to move her remains to her final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia.

Thankfully, Sergeant Gee’s family had the help of a nonprofit called Honoring Our Fallen, which provided the $60,000 required to move her to Virginia. According to Congressman Cory Mills, who found out about this insult to an American hero, an amendment to last year’s National Defense Authorization Act allowed the Pentagon to deny assistance to Gold Star families. 

In the amendment, it says the Secretary of Defense may provide a fallen service member’s next of kin:

“A commercial air travel use waiver for the transportation of deceased remains of a military member who dies inside a theater of combat operations.”

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Were you too busy, Secretary Austin? Perhaps you were preoccupied with finding more money for Ukraine that you couldn’t be bothered to pony up some cash for a fallen hero?

Shame on you. Congressman Mills explained that:

“Typically, our fallen heroes are flown back home for a solemn service and then laid to a final rest at Arlington Cemetery with the utmost respect and honor. It is an egregious injustice that grieving families were burdened to shoulder the financial strain of honoring their loved ones.”

Instead of honoring our heroes, we have done what we always do, forget them. But I won’t forget.

The Fallen 13

Sergeant Nicole Gee was one of the ‘Fallen 13’ who died in a suicide bombing at Kabul International Airport during the botched withdrawal. On August 26th, 2021, Sergeant Gee was one of two female marines and one of 13 service members who were snuffed off the Earth. 

Nicole is immortalized by iconic photos of her before her death, comforting Afghan babies when not standing guard at the airport walls. A year after their deaths, the family members of the Fallen 13 expressed their anger and pain at an administration that seemed to care little for the sacrifice their loved ones made.

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Father of fallen Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz, Mark, said:

“I don’t believe – I haven’t seen a record of Joe Biden, himself, even mentioning one of the 13 names publicly. That in itself is disgusting.”

Father of fallen Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Darin Hoover, also named Darrin, said:

“Six months into it…the administration sent out letters to the families. And it was a canned letter. Everybody’s was exactly the same.”

And, of course, we can’t forget the images of President Biden looking at his watch while the bodies of the Fallen 13 were received at Dover Air Force Base. As if there are other more important things for a Commander-in-Chief to do other than salute the men and women who died under his watch.

Empty words

Last year to commemorate the death of the Fallen 13, President Biden released a statement. He rightly described these men and women as:

“…beloved sons and daughters, brothers and sister. They came from all across our land. Each carried with them the pride of their own unique story and the hopes of the loved ones who nurtured them.”

He went on to say:

“…they were united by a common call – to serve something greater than themselves. The example of their bravery and selflessness will live forever as a testament to the very best of our American character.”

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Nice words, but did he mean any of them? Fast forward to last month at a “pride” event at the White House, and President Biden said to the crowd of giddy LGBTQ activists:

“You’re some of the bravest and most inspiring people I’ve ever known…You set an example for the nation – and quite frankly for the world.”

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a President that tells a group of individuals who receive more attention than any other sub-group in this country are the bravest and most inspiring he’s ever known while placing the pride flag in a place of honor on the White House would care so little for real heroes. 

Closest possible justice

It’s easy to lay all the blame on this latest slap in the face to Gold Star families on the President’s lap, but let’s not forget it’s the Secretary of Defense who had the option to pay for the transportation of Sergeant Gee. And it’s Congress that changed the law in the first place.

Secretary Austin has been the head of an organization that failed its fifth consecutive audit, where they had to admit they couldn’t account for 61% of its assets.

This is the same Department of Defense that essentially shrugged when it announced that it had an over $6 billion accounting error for Ukraine aid. Yet the Secretary couldn’t write a check for $60,000 for Sergeant Gee’s family.

The cost to lay Sergeant Gee’s remains to rest next to her fellow warriors in arms is less than many of the six-figure salaries of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion positions employed in the five-sided building.

Congressman Mills said:

“This is an unacceptable situation that demands immediate rectification.”

The only way to make any of this square in the books is if Secretary Austin issued a formal apology on camera for his incompetence, followed by his resignation letter. The cherry on top would be if he said each of the Fallen 13’s names. 

Here they are, in case you forgot Lloyd:

Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts

Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California

Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah

Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California

Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska

Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana

Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas

Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri

Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming

Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California

Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California

Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio

Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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