Family of Marine who died in botched Afghan withdrawal NOT forced to pay to ship her body thanks to new Pentagon policy

After several reports cited a recent Fox News story about the family of a Marine killed in Afghanistan being forced to pony up thousands to transport her body to its final resting place, a family member clarified that this “never happened.”

The Fox News report incorrectly claimed the Department of Defense (DOD) stuck the family of Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee with a $60,000 bill to transfer her body to Arlington National Cemetery for burial based on comments by Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) However, on Wednesday after publishing the story, several people confirmed that this was not the case.

Thirteen Gold Star families lost loved ones in a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2021 as people were being evacuated. Mills was reportedly shocked after finding out that one of them had to allegedly foot the bill to transport their 23-year-old daughter to Arlington National Cemetary due to a change of policy at the Pentagon.

Mills is an Army veteran. He told Fox News Digital in an interview that when he met with the families of the “Fallen 13” last week, he was “enraged to learn that the Department of Defense had placed a heavy financial burden” on Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee’s family who reportedly secured funding from a non-profit in order to move her body after her 2021 death in Afghanistan.

Gee’s body was originally transported to the family’s home in Roseville, California for a ceremony, but the Marine’s final destination was Arlington National Cemetary. That move cost “a staggering $60,000.” Mills noted that a non-profit organization, Honoring Our Fallen, stepped in to make sure that the fallen Marine would rest with other heroes for her ultimate sacrifice.

According to Fox News:

Because of an amendment to last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Department is no longer required to pay for the transport of fallen service members’ bodies for multiple legs, according to Mills’ office. The Secretary of Defense may provide fallen a service member’s next of kin “a commercial air travel use waiver for the transportation of deceased remains of [a] military member who dies inside a theater of combat operations.”

 

“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 noted, according to Fox News Digital. “It is an egregious injustice that grieving families were burdened to shoulder the financial strain of honoring their loved ones. This is an unacceptable situation that demands immediate rectification.”

(Video Credit: Honoring Our Fallen)

But after the Fox News story was published and reported by multiple outlets including this one, Gee’s mother-in-law said that the Defense Department never told the family that it would not pay for moving her to Arlington National Cemetery.

“That never happened,” Christy Shamblin told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.

She noted that the family was working with Honoring Our Fallen and when they found it was going to cost $60,000 to fly Gee from Sacramento to Arlington National Cemetery, the organization stepped in to cover the funds.

“I think that we got the information that that’s how much it was going to cost, and the private non-profit just stepped in and took over from there,” Shamblin told the outlet.

“I’m not even sure that it went to the point where they said ‘no,'” she noted of the DOD. “That may have been the next step in the process, but we just never got to that point.”

Laura Herzog, Honoring Our Fallen’s founder and CEO, clarified that neither the family nor the organization was ever expected to pay the costs.

“No monies were exchanged or expected to be paid by our organization or the family. This was a donation made by a veteran who donated this service to us to assist us in honoring Sgt. Gee,” Herzog said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“To avoid having Sgt. Gee’s remains be transported via a commercial airline, I personally secured an in-kind donation of a flight in a private aircraft,” she added, explaining how an individual offered to cover the flight and aircraft.

“Sergeant Gee’s family accepted the donation of a flight and Honoring Our Fallen, as a non-profit 501 (c3), accepted the in-kind donation,” she told the DCNF Wednesday.

In addition, despite the original reporting, a Pentagon spokesperson explained that the Marine Corps had no record of any funding requests or need for reimbursement.

“In the case of Sgt. Gee, the Marine Corps stayed consistent with its policy that all costs associated with internment be borne by the government,” the spokesperson told Task & Purpose. “At this time, we have no record of any incurred charges or any pending requests for reimbursement associated with the transportation of Sgt. Gee’s remains to Arlington National Cemetery. The Marine Corps takes very seriously the transfer of remains of our Marines – they never leave a Marine behind, and they care for the families of their fallen Marines.”

Gee was one of two female Marines that perished in the Kabul bombing almost two years ago.

The Marine’s older sister, Misty Fuoco, says her sister would text her about how “amazing” her job was and that she was utterly “fearless.”

“She was a big advocate of positive mental health and helping others and she was just absolutely thrilled with the work she was doing in Afghanistan,” she sadly commented, according to the Daily Mail.

“She and I didn’t get to communicate as much as we did before she was deployed but when she did, she would let me know [she was safe]. Her words were, ‘I love it. I’m so amazed by everything here.’ She couldn’t wait to tell me more about it. There was so much happiness and passion in what she was doing,” Fuoco recounted.

Gee texted her sister less than two weeks before the bombing, “Don’t be scared either! There’s a lot in the news lately… But there’s a LOT of Marines and soldiers going to provide security. We’ve been training for this evacuation and it’s actually happening so I’m excited for it. Hopefully, it’s successful and safe. I love you!!!”

Her sister remembered the moment she found out that Gee had fallen.

“I just stood still, speechless, processing. Thinking, no way. That’s not what you just said. Then you think, well he wouldn’t just say that as a joke or just to say that. You wait for the second phone call that says so sorry for the terrible mix-up but there isn’t any mix-up and what happened, happened,” Fuoco stated the day after the notice.

Gee’s husband was also stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

The other brave Marines who died in the blast were Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, and Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui.

The Army lost Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss and the Navy lost Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak in the ISIS terrorist attack.

 

Editor’s Note: This post has been significantly updated with reports that were published after the original story from the Fox News source. Comments from the Marine’s family and the organization were added and the headline has also been updated.

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