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US lesbian becomes first to receive equal military death benefits

Staff Sgt. Tracy Dice Johnson will be the first spouse of a member of the US armed forces to receive equal death benefits over her National Guard wife Donna’s death in Afghanistan in 2012
A group of North Carolina National Guard soldiers
Photo by Claudia P. Roberto, DoMaD Public Affairs

Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Tracy Dice Johnson will be the first ever military spouse to receive the same death benefits given to heterosexual widows and widowers when their spouses die in the line of duty.

Tracy married wife Donna Johnson in Washington in February of 2012 but she was killed by a suicide bomber just months later in Afghanistan in October that year.

It is believed they are the first military couple to have suffered such a casualty since the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military in September of 2011.

The Defense Department announced on Saturday that Tracy would receive the death benefits she was due – backdated to Donna’s death in 2012.

‘Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian,’ Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy Rosemary Freitas Williams said.

‘And now we can say of our military spouses and partners, “Welcome aboard.”

‘History will record your actions and your significance for all time.’

‘Throughout our nation’s history the Department of Defense has led social change and continues to foster an environment of respect for every service member and civilian professional.’

The Defense Department announced Tracy would receive the benefits at the American Military Partner Association’s (AMPA) inaugural National Gala Dinner.

‘After the review of the case, the Department of Veterans Affairs has decided to retroactively recognize me,’ Tracy said, to applause, at the dinner.

‘My AMPA family was there for me when the unthinkable happened and continue to be there for me and others as we serve.’

Tracy has also received the AMPA’s Community Hero Award.

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