Screenshot from Marine Corps video/Sgt. David Diggs

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Two weeks before my brother Travis was killed in Iraq, he called home to tell my father that he wanted the two of them to run the Marine Corps Marathon together. In mid-May, when the funeral services were over and my parents, extended family, and friends were gathered in the living room, my father announced "I'm still going to run that marathon."

One by one, the other people in the room picked up their heads, hardened their gazes, and joined him. Pretty soon, every single person in the room had committed to 26.2 miles in honor of Travis. I was conveniently engrossed in a thread in the carpet when I felt a dozen pairs of eyes landing intently on my face. I looked up.

I had been an athlete in college, but that was nearly five years earlier. I had given birth to Maggie only ten months before, and I hadn't run so much as a 5k in ages. But those stares were burning a hole right through my skin, and thankfully my bullheadedness kicked in.

"All right, I'll do it," I said.

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Lost amid the firestorm that follow President Donald Trump's surprise announcement that the U.S. would withdraw troops from northern Syria was a surprise moment of candor from the increasingly-embattled commander-in-chief: that signing letters to the families of fallen service members has hardened his determination to finally end the "forever wars."

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Photo courtesy of TAPS

Editor's note: Traci J. Voelke is the surviving spouse of U.S. Army Maj. Paul C. Voelke, who was killed in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan in 2012 during his fifth deployment overseas. A mother of two, she is currently an attorney for the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where she serves as legal counsel for service members and their families, veterans, retirees, and Gold Star families.

I will never forget that day.

It was June 22, 2012, and I was getting ready to take my two boys, then ages 6 and 8, to a baseball game with my brother-in-law. The doorbell rang, then rang again a few more times, and I began to get a bit agitated as I thought my boys were taunting me to hurry up. We never made it to that game.

When I opened the door, two men in full military uniform stood in my doorway — a vision that will be etched in my memory for eternity. My husband, my high school sweetheart, my Paul, would not be returning from his fifth deployment overseas in Afghanistan.

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(U.S. Army/Sgt. Amber Smith)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

With overwhelming support in Congress, two senators hope this is the year a dollar-for-dollar offset in compensation to surviving military spouses of military personnel and retirees — known colloquially as the "widow's tax" — is eliminated.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, took to the Senate floor Monday urging for a vote on their proposed amendment to the national defense policy bill to overturn the offset.

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(U.S. Army/Sgt. Amber Smith)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Congress fell short ahead of Memorial Day weekend, failing to pass legislation that would provide tax relief for the families of military personnel killed during their service.

Senators unanimously approved a version of the bipartisan Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act Tuesday sending it back to the House of Representatives, where it was tied to a retirement savings bill as an amendment, and passed Thursday.

When it got back to the Senate, the larger piece of legislation failed to pass and make its way to the President Trump's desk.

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President Trump recognizes Gold Star families on Memorial Day, 2018. Photo: Sgt. Amber Smith/U.S. Army

Editor's Note: This article by Patricia Kime originally appeared, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

With momentum growing in Congress to repeal a new tax hike on the families of some deceased service members, military advocates hope this will be the year another surviving military spouse pay issue — the so-called "widow's tax" — ends.

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