The Army has decided to grant death benefits for an Arkansas soldier's surviving family members after initially denying the benefits because he had died at his home a few miles from base.
Capt. Samson Luke had served seven years in the U.S. Army, deploying twice to Iraq and receiving a Bronze Star for “bravery, heroism or meritorious” service. Luke died two years ago from a heart attack during a brief assignment with the Arkansas National Guard.
Luke left behind his widow, Miranda Luke, and four children. For two years, Miranda had been locked in a dispute with the military over whether Luke passed away as a soldier or as a civilian. The battle had warranted the attention of Sen. Mark Pryor, who proposed legislation that was passed earlier in December as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill to tighten the language surrounding benefits owed to National Guard families.
Pryor’s office on Tuesday confirmed to Fox News that the Army had decided to grant Miranda Luke the survivors' benefits.
“I am thrilled and ecstatic that they have chosen to do what’s right,” she told FoxNews.com.
Her fight began when the Army said its bureau of Casualty and Mortuary Affairs ruled that the Luke family did not deserve standard death or grievance benefits, which would come to more than $100,000 for expenses, health care for the family and potential tuition assistance for the children.
Samson Luke was on assignment with the Guard in January 2010 when he was given permission from his commanders to sleep at his Greenwood, Ark., home the night of his death because it was just 12 miles from Fort Chaffee and it would save him the cost of staying at a hotel.
Luke went home to sleep in between his shift when his heart stopped at just 34 years old. He was buried in a military cemetery on Jan. 18, 2010, which would have been his 35th birthday.
Initially, the Army had assigned a casualty assistance officer to Miranda Luke and the couple’s four children, all under age 11 at the time.
Then without explanation, the casualty assistance officer was pulled from the family. Miranda was also informed that the military would not be covering the expenses of the funeral, nor would the family be provided with the standard death or grievance benefits that are provided to military families when a family member dies while on duty because technically her husband died at home.
“Under the provisions of 10 USC 1481 (a)(2)(O) the Army may only pay for funeral and mortuary costs for Reserve Soldiers who die while remaining overnight at or in the vicinity of the site of the active duty training,” Army spokesman George Wright told Fox News for a previous story. “Soldiers who have their supervisor’s permission to spend the intervening drill night at their residence, whether or not in the vicinity of the site of the inactive-duty training, are not covered by this section.”
But that statement no longer stands.
“I feel like this fight has been worth it because not only have we been able to change it for the families in the future, but the Army finally did the right thing and fixed it for the Luke family,” Miranda Luke told FoxNews.com.
"I feel very blessed and I am happy to feel like I am back associated with the military, and it makes me happy for our children because that was a huge part of who we were," she said.
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin contributed to this story.