SCRANTON — In the midst of the Federal Government shutdown, a charity stepped in to pay death and funeral benefits to families of service people currently serving in harm’s way.
But the shutdown has stopped a program that helps pay burial costs for needy families of vets who fought in Korea, Vietnam, and in World War II.
David Strickland was just 24 when he and thousands of American troops stormed the beaches of Normandy during the d-day invasion that helped liberate Europe near the end of World War II.
“He was always proud that he got to serve his country,” said his nephew, Harold Strickland of Old Forge. “He was proud of his duties in the military.”
David Strickland died yesterday at the Gino J. Merli center in Scranton.
He was 95.
His nephew Harold wants a proper burial, but can’t afford one.
So he called the US Veterans Administration`s Philadelphia office for programs that could pay him up to $1600 in burial costs.
Instead of help, he got this recording when he called: “Due to the loss in fiscal `14 appropriations, I will be unable to responded until an appropriations bill has been passed.”
“I just broke out in tears, because I didn`t know which way to turn,” said Harold Strickland, wondering if he could even find the money to have his uncle’s body brought to a funeral home.
Michael Semian, the commandant of the Gino J. Merli center says David Strickland is the only veteran who died since the government shut down who didn`t set aside money for burial.
But Semian says dozens of veterans are broke, in ill-health, and with relatives unprepared to pay burial costs.
“No veteran will go without a proper burial, or the proper respect that they deserve,” Semian promised.
Semian and other Merli Center workers are reaching out to local funeral home owners willing to provide burials for who thought the federal government would pay the tab.
Harold Strickland hopes elected officials think of the sacrifices made by people like his uncle David, and find a way to end the government shutdown, and the stress families like his face.
“I don`t understand why they can`t get it together,” said Harold of Congress and the President. “They`re hurting the American people, and they`re hurting our soldiers, and families and everything.”