Gold Star families call for improved survivor support services

The Donlon Report

(NewsNation Now) — Several survivors of soldiers and Marines killed in the war on terror have issued an open letter to Americans — and in particular, American leaders — asking for improvements in the military’s services to the families of those who died in combat.

“We have spent thousands upon thousands of hours collectively pressing senior Pentagon and Congressional leaders for better professionalized systems, casualty assistance, real support, and a genuine relationship with the military,” the letter reads. Instead, it says, “The military overall has scaled back our survivor programs. Some nonprofit organizations collect money by exploiting our loss. They haven’t reached out at the end of this (Afghanistan) conflict, they haven’t help change the policies that hurt our survivors, and they are failing the mission.

“The current systems and processes for supporting our Gold Star families are archaic, fraught with inconsistency, and nearly impossible to navigate. The small team who manages supporting Gold Star families hasn’t modernized. Catastrophic mistakes have occurred: leaked information, improperly identified remains, failures to file paperwork accurately and on time. They have not protected us, and they have refused to listen” to calls for improvements.

Jennie Taylor, who lost her husband, Maj. Brent Taylor, in Afghanistan and signed the letter, said on the “Donlon Report” on Wednesday that serving the country at a time of war was “in his blood.” He was killed during his fourth combat deployment. Between deployments, he served as mayor of North Ogden, Utah.

“We have a lot of heartache,” Taylor said, “but no regret, for his service and his sacrifice.”

Still, she said, Gold Star families seeking help face “a lot of bureaucratic steps … a lot of paperwork. There’s a lot of the process that could be improved.”

Among other specifics, the letter calls for:

• Program reform. The Department of Defense needs a bigger, better-trained team to manage survivor and casualty issues. Beginning with the knock on the door through the end of our lives, we need a substantial and well-trained, professionalized team to better support these needs. 

• Improved technology. The administrative systems are archaic and impossible to navigate. They need meaningful investment and reform to better support survivors. 

• Veteran Affairs support. The VA motto is “To care for those who have borne the battle, their widow and their orphan,” yet they lack programs to support the widow and orphan. This needs to be prioritized, as the mental, physical and emotional impact of loss is tremendous. 

“This letter really is a call to action” for the American people, Taylor said. “Look what the price of freedom is. Look at children like mine who are growing up without a father, and then find some way to act on those feelings.”

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