A War Widow With no Benefits

Imagine your servicemember dies. Imagine no one notifies you. Imagine you learn from his sister — not from a uniformed pair at your doorstep. Imagine you get no honors as a widow of a fallen servicemember, no recognition, no folded flag and no death benefits.

Imagine that, and you imagine yourself in the shoes of war widow Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Tracy Dice, a gay military spouse, married to Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Donna Johnson who was killed in Afghanistan Oct. 1.

Watch a video about her here.


As the original story on Army Times says (unavailable to link because it is available only to paid subscribers), the military believes Dice is the first widow of a gay spouse. That makes her the first gay spouse since the lifting of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) more than a year ago to deal with ramifications of the Defense of Marriage Act on gay servicemembers.

The issue isn’t a surprise, but it is a problem. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, the DoD does not recognize gay marriage as a legal union and, therefore, does not give any benefits to gay spouses. That includes death benefits.

Watch the video and you’ll see the heartbreak written on Dice’s face. She is in mourning. And, although she clearly states in the story that she does view herself as one, she is the victim of a cruel double standard. Regardless of what you think about gay marriage, the double standard is obvious. With the lifting of DADT Dice and Johnson could live out in the open — they can support each other, they can do everything that makes a military spouse a military spouse … except receive support.

Isn’t there something wrong with that?

About Amy Bushatz

Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.


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