“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” – Abraham Lincoln
Since the founding of our nation there have been the few that have carried the burden of securing our nation. How should we repay their vigilance, their sacrifice and their sacred honor of defending our very existence as a country? As heavy a question as that may seem it is nowhere near the weight our military families bear every day on our behalf. The question has been asked, and those that serve deserve an answer.
This past week another Memorial Day has come and gone. For however brief a moment we set aside to honor those that perished in defense of this country may be, the sacrifice our military families endure is every lasting, especially for those who have laid to rest a family member because of their military service.
The word sacrifice is not a word that should be taken lightly. For those that have never served, you cannot truly understand the meaning of the word sacrifice as it pertains to military families. Holidays and special occasions spent apart. Day-to-day interactions are nonexistent. Long absences with little or no contact while their loved ones are thousands of miles away serving in hostile conditions, either in conflict or in stressful circumstances while in the service of our nation.
We whine when we are stuck in traffic or our pizza takes more than 30 minutes to arrive, yet seldom do we hear military families complain about the strains and heartbreak they live with every day. The military families are not holding their hands out begging for scraps or making demands not earned. In fact, most grin and bear unimaginable hardship because it is their lot in life, because they dared to love and support a member of the most moral fighting force ever conceived, the U.S. military. But what happens when that flagged draped coffin is lowered into the ground for what will be the final interment of another American service member?
Left behind are the husbands, wives and children of those lost to conflict and related military service. Beyond the grave stones graced with small American flags, the monuments bearing their names, and the brief moment that our nation’s flag flies at half-mast to honor the loved ones lost, our daily reminders are in the faces of those left behind that serve notice of the true cost of a free nation. They must endure. They must carry on in memory of their lost soldier, sailor, Marine, airman or Coastie.
So, what do we owe them? We owe them nothing less than what they have given us, which is everything. There is no price tag that can be attached to the phrases “the ultimate sacrifice” and “the last full measure of devotion.” Those sentiments are absolute, and so must be our conviction as a nation. We owe the widows, widowers and children the last full measure of our devotion as a nation. We owe them our eternal and absolute gratitude. That is the debt we owe them, but it must be more than just words and platitudes. It must be in meaningful action.
Over the past 25 years some of our military families have been battling an injustice that was borne out of poor policy and political indifference in the form of what is referred to as the “Widows Tax (https://tinyurl.com/axethewidowstax).” The Widows Tax is a national disgrace, a slap in the face to our military families, but I will take it one step further. Why do widows and widowers of those service members lost as a direct result of serving our country have to pay any taxes associated with their income, property or inheritance related to the loss of their loved one? And I am not just talking about federal taxes, I am talking about taxes at every level. Have they not sacrificed enough? Have they not given all that can be given? Shouldn’t we as a nation declare the bill “paid in full,” and afford them some financial comfort for their loss?
What a radical concept, actually living up to our words as a nation, and doing the right thing, taking care of the widows, widowers, and the children of our nation’s bravest, those lost in direct service to our country. These military families have earned this “benefit” with the blood spilled in defense of our nation. A sacrifice that is priceless and deserving of tribute of greater return than the loss of a life. There is no equal compensation, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
It is estimated that approximately 65,000 individuals nationwide are affected by this issue. In the grand scheme of things, granting tax waivers as a show of support and gratitude is literally the least we can do. No military family should face a negative financial burden as a result due to the loss of a service member who was doing nothing more than serving their nation. Shame on us for not realizing this sooner.