Paying tribute on Memorial Day

Ely’s program is Monday at the Cemetery at 10:30 a.m.

by Senator Amy Klobuchar
Each Memorial Day, Americans across the country honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, and work to ensure that the price they paid to defend our security and preserve our way of life is never taken for granted. It’s been said that a nation that forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.
It’s also a time for us to consider what more we can do to treat the families of the fallen with the dignity they deserve.
Of course, one of the most important ways that we can pay tribute to the fallen is by ensuring they are given burials worthy of their sacrifice. Like Virginia, Minnesota resident Dante Tini—who was just 19 years old when he was killed during Pearl Harbor while serving as a radioman on the U.S.S. Oklahoma. He had been preparing to come home for the holidays prior to that fateful day.
But 80 years later, his family, friends and community are still waiting for his remains to return home.
Earlier this year, Dante’s niece Renee Prout contacted my office with some good news. Dante’s remains had been identified and the Navy was sending them home for a proper burial. But there was one small problem.
The Navy was planning to fly Dante’s remains back to the Twin Cities airport rather than the Duluth airport, which was closer to his family and would ensure his family could be present to welcome him home.
Our office wrote to the Navy and contacted the Duluth airport. Together with the Duluth airport, 148th Fighter Wing, United Airlines and Congressman Stauber’s office, we were able to have Dante’s remains flown to Duluth.
On May 23rd—almost 80 years after his death—Dante returned home, greeted with Navy escorts and the Duluth Honor Guard, along with his family. Several days later, he was buried next to his parents in Virginia, honoring the request he made when he enlisted.
The entire community of Virginia was invited to Dante’s homecoming. For many who know his nieces, and knew his parents, it was a celebration of his life, and of a hero who died serving his country, now returned home. The Virginia community is helping to keep his memory alive by naming the VFW hall after him and displaying his photograph in City Hall.
This is the way to honor our fallen soldiers. Another way is to make sure we support their families. After all, no one has given more to our country than the families of our fallen heroes.
So when I learned that changes in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act were unduly harming Gold Star military families by significantly increasing their tax burden, I moved to stop these changes from taking place.
The tax law changed the tax treatment of survivor benefits going to the children of deceased service members, driving up their taxes—in some cases by thousands of dollars.
According to one report, a Gold Star widow who lost her husband in Iraq in 2007 saw the taxes on her 14-year-old son’s survivor’ benefits increase from roughly $200 per year to about $2,500 this year.
This is an unacceptable burden on our Gold Star families. Their loved ones have already paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Their surviving family members shouldn’t have to sacrifice more. That’s why we must pass the bipartisan Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act to correct the tax law and bring the tax rate down to its previous level for Gold Star families.
This Memorial Day, we reflect on our nation’s heroes who sacrificed everything and the families they left behind. We owe them a deep debt of gratitude.