Key Committee OK's Gold Star Families Voices Act
Bill will allow veterans’ families to participate in Library of Congress Project
WASHINGTON, DC – A bill to allow the stories of those servicemembers who have made the ultimate sacrifice to be included in the ongoing Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress was passed by a key committee.
In a unanimous voice vote, the Committee on House Administration approved the Gold Star Families Voice Act, a proposed law authored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (Hamilton, NJ), who said the Committee’s action is a major step to righting a wrong. His legislation would allow immediate family members of servicemembers who are killed or missing in action or have died as a result of their service to participate in the Veterans History Project.
"The Gold Star Families Voices Act will preserve the legacies of the men and women whose service contributes to our collective understanding of who we are as a nation, and what they fought—and gave their lives—to defend," said Smith, who served two terms as Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee from 2001-2004. "I am grateful that Chairwoman Miller has prioritized this bill and I appreciate her work to ensure we record and remember the lives and sacrifices of all who have served.”
Smith’s legislation will allow—for the first time—family members of veterans who are missing in action or have died as a result of their service to tell the stories of their loved ones. Immediate family members who can participate include: parents, spouses, siblings, and/or children. Currently the project accepts only first-hand accounts of living veterans, unintentionally leaving out the stories of those servicemembers who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
In 2000, Congress created the Veterans History Project (VHP) at the Library of Congress to collect and catalog the stories of American war veterans. The purpose of the VHP is “to preserve the memories of this Nation's war veterans so that Americans of all current and future generations may hear directly from veterans and better appreciate the realities of war and the sacrifices made by those who served in uniform during wartime.”
To date, the VHP has collected the oral history records of over 100,000 veterans who have served in military engagements since World War I. The project now includes first hand narratives only, blocking the collection of information of veterans who did not return from the battlefields.
Smith’s bill is endorsed by the national organization American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. whose Legislative Chairman Becky Christmas stated: “Rep. Smith’s legislation gives our children a voice that they no longer have. The Gold Star Mothers Voices Act will ensure that the experiences and lives of all veterans, including our sons and daughters who fought and died for our country, are remembered, honored and preserved.”
New Jersey Gold Star Mothers President Judith Tapper, proud mother of PO1 (SEAL) David M. Tapper (KIA Afghanistan 8/20/03)—who along with Vietnam veteran Terry Fearon, first raised this issue with Smith—said: “The Gold Star Families Voices Act will certainly ensure the Gold Star Families of New Jersey that the statement we all hear ‘they will never be forgotten,’ will be solidified in the Library of Congress archives for generations to come and this act is worthy of our fallen loved ones stories to be told.”
Smith was hopeful the bill would be brought to the House floor soon.
“The Veterans History Project was created to turn memories into history, to memorialize the lives of the heroes whose selfless sacrifice we will never forget,” Smith continued. “The Gold Star Families Voices Act will provide family members with an opportunity to create a lasting narrative and living record of their fallen loved ones.”