Over the weekend we received the very sad news that Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan died at age 48 after a lengthy battle with cancer. She had served as part of the New Hampshire Army National Guard for more than 16 years and leaves behind a wife and young daughter.
While I did not know CW2 Morgan personally, I had the privilege of assisting hundreds of service members like her during the three years I served as an attorney for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. I had the privilege of assisting the brave men and women, and their families, who make unbelievable sacrifices to serve in our Armed Forces. For a long time, gay and lesbian servicemembers had the additional burden of serving in silence, hiding their personal lives and their families for fear of losing their jobs. And while CW2 Morgan thankfully no longer had to hide her family from her co-workers, she still battled on to be treated equally among the ranks.
One thing the military has always done very well is taking care of “their own.” While nothing can replace a family member who is deployed, the range of services and benefits available to assist military families when a loved one is called away are numerous. The support systems are there for dependent children and spouses so that while the servicemember is off defending our country, they don’t have to worry about their families back at home. They can focus on the mission at-hand because they trust their families will be taken care of in their absence. Unfortunately, this reassurance and security is not yet available to gay and lesbian servicemembers and their families.
After receiving her cancer diagnosis, rather than focusing on her health or spending the precious time she had left with her family, CW2 Morgan spent a significant amount of time and energy fighting for the benefits that she and her family should have automatically been entitled to. Because of DOMA, her wife Karen was unable to gain access to health and dental insurance, causing the family to purchase it at full cost with no discount. In addition, Karen’s inability to receive a military identification card prevents her from taking their daughter, who is a dependent with her own ID card, on post to take advantage of facilities and services otherwise available to military families. And now that CW2 Morgan has lost her battle with cancer, the thing she feared most has been realized – because of DOMA, Karen will have no access to her military survivor benefits.
All CW2 Morgan wanted to do was ensure that her wife and young daughter were going to be taken care of when she died. And after years of loyal, dedicated and honorable service, she deserved nothing less. This is not the best we can do for our military families. We as a country need to do better than this – for CW2 Morgan, her family, and for all of the gay and lesbian service members who come after her. Thank you, CW2 Morgan – your life was one well-spent, and one that will be forever remembered for your outstanding service to the cause for equality.
Read the Washington Blade article HERE.