By Tonya Star
Nothing strikes more fear in the heart of a wife than to hear your husband has stage 4 metastatic terminal lung cancer.
When the doctors delivered the news to Rich and me just after Memorial Day in 2018, our life and goals for our future were forever changed. Instead of accepting a position he had waited his whole career for – to be stationed in Europe and work with the Corps of Engineers -- we were frantically trying to be transferred to Walter Reed Military Medical Center from his current duty station in Toledo, Ohio, to get the best medical care available.
I was thrust into becoming a full-time caregiver, advocate, and lung cancer researcher. I had to give up any goals of furthering my own career and education and focus on navigating the military’s guidelines and expectations for Rich during his treatments and inevitable end of his Army career. It was heartbreaking to see this happen to a man who had dreams of continuing to serve our country.
Maj. Richard Star, USA, holds his wife Tonya's hand as he speaks at a press conference in Washington, D.C., in support of H.R. 5995, the Major Richard Star Act, on March 3. (Jennifer Milbrett for MOAA)
The way forward is filled with so much uncertainty and years of grief, as I know the love of my life will one day slip away. We will never travel to all of the destinations we longed to see together or play with our grandchildren as we watch our own children become parents. Instead, I will be left with mounting debt from bills not covered by insurance and the VA, student loans, funeral expenses associated with Arlington National Cemetery, remodeling costs made to our home to make it accessible for Rich, and the loss of military retirement benefits.
The impending loss of those benefits was the biggest shock. Because Rich will not reach 20 years of military service, he will be classified as a Chapter 61 retiree. It’s a terrible injustice for our family and countless others.
I am thankful MOAA and The Military Coalition are taking on the fight for concurrent receipt.
This legislation has received so much support from both legislators and advocacy groups like MOAA, but we need your help to spread the word and make it a reality. Our family and those in similar situations shouldn't have to face this unfair financial burden alongside so many other sacrifices. Now is the time to help us make a difference.
Please take the time to call and write your representatives, encouraging them to sign on to H.R. 5995 and S. 3393.