BAMBERG, Germany — The Defense Department will pay for families of deceased U.S. servicemembers to travel to unit memorial services for their loved ones, DOD officials said.
The DOD implemented the new policy on May 11, authorizing the payment of travel expenses and up to two days per diem for eligible family members, according to Mary Torgersen, chief of plans, training and operations at the U.S. Army Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center in Alexandria, Va.
Col. Deb Skillman, chief of the casualty and mortuary affairs branch, described eligible family members as: the spouse, children, parents, in-laws, and siblings of the deceased.
The DOD policy authorizes round-trip travel and transportation allowances to eligible relatives to a memorial event that occurs at a location other than the burial site, according to the message. That includes travel to events in the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, U.S. territories, and the last permanent duty station or home station of the deceased servicemember, including overseas locations.
Family members will not receive funding to travel to memorial events in combat zones, Torgersen said.
The new policy also reminds unit commanders that memorials are required for all deceased servicemembers, including those who commit suicide.
In addition to arranging for payment of the family’s travel expenses, the policy directs units to help with hotel and other travel-related arrangements, as well as providing unit escorts for the family. And it directs them to ensure that the memorial service date does not conflict with a private funeral date, or the dignified transfer of a servicemember’s remains at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Last year, the DOD began authorizing payment of certain family members’ travel expenses to observe a dignified transfer at Dover.
The Army message on the DOD policy change notes that under the Army Family Covenant, “...unit commanders are charged with ensuring the families of their fallen soldiers are made to feel a part of the Army for as long as they desire.”
The memorial must have been conducted at the soldier’s home station within two years of the soldier’s death, the message states. Family members are only authorized government funded travel to attend one unit memorial event.
The funding was authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010.