<\body> Stories in America: Dead American Soldiers Left Behind 1,954 Children

Monday, March 05, 2007

Dead American Soldiers Left Behind 1,954 Children

"What did my husband die for? I don't believe what we're doing over there helps our country."
-Ursula Pirtle

From the AP:
Of the 3,350 Americans who died in Iraq and Afghanistan through early January, 1,586 of them, 47.3 percent, were married. Those fallen warriors left behind 1,954 children, according to the Pentagon's Manpower Data Center. More recent deaths have pushed that figure past 2,000.

Compared to the heavily draftee combat troops of the Vietnam war, today's volunteer fighting force is older, more reliant on National Guard and Reserve citizen-soldiers, and more likely to be married.

And more so than their Vietnam counterparts, the new generation of bereaved spouses has been vocal, on their bases, at congressional hearings, in pressing for more compassionate, effective support.

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office examined some of the issues troubling bereaved families. It said support services were inconsistent and advised the Defense Department to improve its oversight.

"Most survivors don't know what they're entitled to, and that's a big deal," said the GAO's Derek Stewart. "There should be one place that survivors could go and, in one sitting, have an individual spell out all the services and entitlements coming your way."

Addressing some of the concerns, the Defense Department updated its guide to survivors' benefits, which have increased substantially since the Iraq war began. The so-called "death gratuity" for next of kin has climbed from $6,000 to $100,000; military life insurance payments have risen from $250,000 to $400,000.


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