Pentagon Did Not Force Family Of Fallen Marine To Foot The Bill For Flight To Arlington Cemetery

(Photo by Jason Minto/U.S. Air Force via Getty Images)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The family of a Marine who died in Afghanistan was never forced to pay to transfer the body to Arlington National Cemetery for burial, multiple people confirmed Wednesday, following a report that incorrectly claimed the Department of Defense (DOD) stuck the family with a $60,000 bill.

Republican Rep. Cory Mills of Florida told Fox News on Tuesday he was “enraged to learn [from families] that the Department of Defense had placed a heavy financial burden” on the family of Sgt. Nicole Gee, one of 13 Marines who lost their lives in the Aug. 13, 2021 terrorist attack during the chaotic military withdrawal, to pay for transporting her body from California to its place of internment. Mills said a humanitarian organization, Honoring Our Fallen, stepped in to cover the “staggering $60,000” cost, but the organization’s founder told the Daily Caller News Foundation that at no point was the family or organization on the hook for the flight.

“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,” Laura Herzog, Honoring Our Fallen’s founder and CEO, said in a statement to the DCNF.

The Marine Corps paid for Gee’s remains to be transferred to the Sacramento area so Gee’s family and community could pay their respects, Herzog said. Then the family decided they wanted Gee to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. (RELATED: New State Department Report Says Biden Didn’t Know Who Was In Charge Of Afghanistan Debacle)

“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,” meaning an individual stepped in to offer 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.

Federal law and the consequent DOD policy allows for the family to reimburse flights via commercial or DOD-provided aircraft, Robert Ditchey, a Pentagon spokesperson, told the DCNF.

In a case where the DOD-authorized person to coordinate transport and internment of fallen servicemembers to a second destination location, the family “incurs the cost up front, and then requests reimbursement for this cost (along with the rest of the funeral bill) from the appropriate Service Department,” Ditchey said.

The Marine Corps had no record of incurred costs or pending reimbursement requests, a Pentagon spokesperson told the DCNF.

“Through the transfer of remains process, Marine Corps casualty assistance officers were in direct communication with Sgt. Gee’s family, and they remain in contact today. 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 said.

Gee’s mother-in-law, Christy Shamblin, also denied that DOD ever declined to pay the costs for the last leg of Gee’s trip, Task and Purpose reported.

“I’m not even sure that it went to the point where they said ‘no,'” Shamblin told the outlet.

Mills’ office and the Marine Corps did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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