Column: Lincoln’s message at Gettysburg should resonate on Memorial Day
Q: What reflections do you have for Iowans on this Memorial Day?
A: For as long as I can remember, Memorial Day has been a day for families, friends and neighbors to share collective grief and gratitude for the profound sacrifice our hometown heroes made to keep us safe.
From a young age, I recall local members of veteran service organizations participating in the Presentation of Colors, watching a Rifle Salute to the Fallen and listening to the majestic notes of Taps in solemn observance of our fallen heroes. Close-knit communities across America observe the national day of mourning with patriotic music, flag memorials, gravesite ceremonies and neighborhood parades to honor and remember those who died in service to our nation.
Since the American Revolution, hundreds of thousands of men and women in uniform have died at home and around the world in service to our country, defending the cherished blessings of freedom and liberty from one generation to the next. They have taken up arms to uphold peace and prosperity, defeat tyranny and protect our values and way of life. As a nation, we are called to honor these brave patriots and share in the sorrow of loved ones left behind. For them and all those called to serve in the Armed Forces, we owe a debt of gratitude.
To be sure, President Abraham Lincoln cut to the heart of the matter and called upon the living to advance the cause “for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.” It is our duty as Americans to carry out the mission our 16th president shared with historic clarity on November 19, 1863. From the scarred battlefields in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the president’s message — delivered in just 10 sentences — guides us in our annual observance of Memorial Day. We must stay resolved so those who die in service to our country “shall not have died in vain … and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Q: Who belongs to a Gold Star Family?
A: For the hundreds of thousands of men and women who lost their lives in service to our nation, tens of millions of Americans are left behind. The parents, spouses, children, grandparents, siblings and loved ones of a service member who died on active duty are known as Gold Star families.
In addition to those lost in combat, thousands of service members die in non-hostile circumstances, including military training or accidents. No matter the circumstances of their loved one’s death, Gold Star families experience the immeasurable loss of no reunification or joyous homecoming with a loved one who put on the uniform in service to our country. On Memorial Day, Americans are called to pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of America’s fallen heroes. Let us also recognize the sacrifice of those left behind.
As chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, I supported efforts to fix a flaw in the 2017 tax law that unintentionally created a tax burden on children receiving military survivor benefits. The U.S. Senate approved passage of bipartisan legislation to fix a glitch that raised taxes on benefits provided to the children of deceased service members. The Senate continues to work with the House of Representatives to get a final product to the president’s desk. When signed into law, this legislation would apply retroactively to tax years starting in 2018, and Gold Star families would be able to amend any tax returns they have already filed for last year.
On this Memorial Day and every other day of the year, our nation’s Gold Star families shoulder a tremendous loss. They don’t deserve an added tax burden. Their loved one in uniform already paid the ultimate price while in service to our country.