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Army Widow Struggles Since Husband's Death

Denise Marshall with her daughter Jennifer, 14. Denise has a debilitating eye condition that's left her largely blind in one eye and sensitive to light.
Andrea Hsu, NPR
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Denise Marshall with her daughter Jennifer, 14. Denise has a debilitating eye condition that's left her largely blind in one eye and sensitive to light.

Congress and the White House are moving toward increasing the so-called "death gratuity" given to families of service men and women killed in combat. The Bush administration has proposed raising the death benefit to $100,000, from $12,000. The proposal would also expand life-insurance coverage.

Families of the fallen across the country welcome the move, as they work to rebuild lives devastated by loss. One such widow is Denise Marshall of Hinesville, Ga. Her husband, Sgt. 1st Class John Marshall of the 3rd Infantry Division, was killed in combat near Baghdad in early April 2003.

Marshall had volunteered for a daring resupply mission into Baghdad just as the Iraqi regime was crumbling. But 22 months after John's death, Denise Marshall is struggling to raise their three children and feels forgotten by the Army her late husband served.

"If I had foresight, I would have kept my husband at home," she says. "If I had known… This is a lot -- not just physically draining, it's mentally and emotionally draining. These kids expect you to be their pillar of strength. If you fall apart, so do they. Some semblance of inner strength has to be maintained all the time."

NPR's Eric Westervelt has her story.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.