The Department of Defense refused to pay for fallen soldiers’ transportation to their final resting place, even as it forks over millions on transgender procedures for military members.
U.S. Rep. Cory Mills, a decorated U.S. Army combat Veteran, made the shocking discovery last week when he met with the families of the 13 fallen service members who died in 2021 when the U.S withdrew from Afghanistan.
During the meeting, Mills was “enraged to learn that the Department of Defense had placed a heavy financial burden” on the family of Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, according to Fox News.
Gee enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2017 and was 23 when she died during a suicide bombing at Kabul airport while trying to help others to safety. Gee and the 12 other service members received the Gold Star for their heroic actions.
Gee’s family was reportedly told it would have to pay $60,000 to transport her body to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia from her hometown in California.
Arlington “is the country’s largest military cemetery and serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 military veterans and their immediate family from the fronts of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as World Wars I and II, the Korean conflict, Vietnam, the Cold War and America’s Civil War,” according to Washington, D.C.’s tourism website.
“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,” Mills said, according to Fox News. “It is an egregious injustice that grieving families were burdened to shoulder the financial strain of honoring their loved ones.”
Honoring Our Fallen, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting the families of fallen American service members, volunteered to cover the costs to transport Gee’s body.
Mills’ office says the DoD’s decision to decline paying for transportation was made possible by an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act last year, which applies to flights with multiple legs, Fox News reported.
But Gee wasn’t the only member of the fallen 13 denied transportation funds or assistance. Army Sgt. Ryan Knauss’s family was also responsible for transporting his body to Arlington.
Mynatt’s Funeral Home volunteered to drive the fallen soldier from Tennessee to his final resting place in Virginia at no cost to the family, according to 10 News.
Many service members and their families assume the costs associated with their burial are covered by the military.
Corporal Molly Mendez, who was stationed at the same attachment as Gee prior to her deployment, is one.
“I’ve always assumed that if I was to give my life on a deployment, they’d do everything they could to get my body to its final resting place,” she told The Lion.
Mendez remembers how Gee’s death affected the whole base.
“When a member dies, it affects everyone whether you know them or not,” Mendez says. “We’re brothers and sisters in arms, we’re an extension of each other.”
News of the transportation costs comes as the DoD is taking heat for a recently released military memorandum which lists gender-altering procedures as a covered benefit.
From 2016 to 2021, the Pentagon spent $15 million to treat 1,892 transgender troops, including $11.5 million for psychotherapy and $3.1 million for surgeries, according to Defense Department data. Transgender individuals were banned from serving in the U.S. military from 2019-2021.
Mendez wonders how the DoD would spend millions of dollars for elective surgeries but won’t spend $60,000 on those who gave their life serving their country.
“We’re fighting for everyone’s freedoms,” Mendez said. “In the grand scheme of things, we shouldn’t be reduced to a financial smart decision once we’ve died for you.”