Lawmakers and President Obama say they will restore the military benefits paid to fallen soldiers that have been stalled by the partial government shutdown. Usually when a service member dies in the line of duty, their loved ones receive $100,000 for travel and funeral expenses.
Melissa Jensen said that money relieved a lot of stress when her brother Dennis died in Afghanistan two years ago.
"That was actually the last time I saw him," Jensen said, looking at a photograph of her and Dennis. "He was funny and he had a wonderful heart and more than anything he wanted to serve his country."
Wednesday would have been the soldier's 24th birthday. Her family will have ice cream cake and watch old home movies to celebrate his life, but to honor him even further, Melissa is speaking up for other men and women like her brother.
"These soldiers are dying for our country and our country can't even pay to bury them," Melissa said. "For the families to have a hiccup where they don't get this support from our government that is supposed to be guaranteed. It's really, really detrimental," Melissa said.
Countless Americans have expressed outrage about the shutdown jeopardizing these benefits. Though lawmakers focused quickly on a solution, Melissa said Congress should not have let it become an issue in the first place.
"I have seen better behavior on a playground than our congressmen and senators right now," Melissa said.
As for South Dakota's representation, Senator Tim Johnson, Senator John Thune, and Representative Kristi Noem made these statements to KELOLAND News.
"Whether it is opening the FSA offices to deal with the snow storm disaster or providing death benefits to the families of brave veterans killed in action or addressing any other of the terrible effects of the government shutdown the answer is simple, the House must pass a clean Continuing Resolution and open the government," Johnson said.
"It's an insult. It's an absolute insult to military families and it's an outrageous to the American people that this isn't being funded. Again, we though we had taken steps to address that when the the active-duty military pay passed last week," Thune said.
"The federal government has done some pretty questionable things during this partial shutdown, including blocking the roadside viewing area at Mt. Rushmore. But blocking assistance to the families of our nation's fallen is unacceptable. The House has voted three times during this partial shutdown to authorize paychecks and other benefits for our military and their families," Noem said.
The Pentagon reached an agreement with the non-profit Fisher House Foundation to restore the $100,000 in death benefits for military families, if the issue is not resolved quickly. Melissa hopes our government can put aside partisan differences in order to serve the families of fallen soldiers, just like their loved ones have served this country.
"They're not just a number, they're not just a statistic you see on the news in a little blurb at the bottom of the screen. They are people with families and loved ones that need that support," Melissa said.