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Military Killed in Rescue Missions Could Get New Benefits

June 4, 2015
In The News

Military personnel killed during humanitarian aid missions, such as a Phoenix Marine who died recently in the Nepal earthquake, could receive new benefits under legislation from Arizona members of Congress.

When fallen service members' bodies are transported back to the U.S. from overseas relief missions, their families may be required to pay for travel to Dover Air Force Base for the ceremony. The Pentagon has discretion to cover the costs, unlike the guaranteed travel for families when personnel are killed in combat.

Republican U.S. Reps. Trent Franks and Matt Salmon, in an unusual bipartisan alliance, want to change that.

The Fallen Hero Family Assistance Act, co-sponsored with Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego and Kyrsten Sinema, would make the funding mandatory.

Six Marines, including Lance Cpl. Jacob "Jake" Hug, died last month when their helicopter carrying food and supplies to earthquake survivors crashed in the Nepalese mountains. The Defense Department covered the families' travel after pressure from Salmon.

"Whether in a combat zone or through humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, our servicemen and women sacrifice daily for this great nation," Franks said in a written statement. "Lives lost abroad during military operations, both combat and relief-related, should be honored with the same dignity and respect."

Gallego, who served in combat in Iraq, said families make sacrifices when their loved ones join the military.

"The least we can do for a grieving military family member is ensure that they can accompany the body of their loved one back home," he said in a statement.