The families of two soldiers killed in a California helicopter accident Saturday will not be getting government death benefits during the shutdown, but the non-profit Fisher House has pledged to step up again to make the payments.
Pentagon officials made clear before the shutdown began at midnight Friday that death gratuity payments of $100,000 to the families of troops killed in the line of duty would be suspended for the duration of the shutdown.
A Pentagon spokesman confirmed to ABC News that the suspension of death benefits would apply to families of the pilot and co-pilot of an AH-64 Apache helicopter gunship who were killed Saturday in an accident at the at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
The cause of the accident was under investigation. Both soldiers were serving with the 4th Infantry Division, based in Fort Carson, Colorado.
To get around the suspension of government death benefits, the Fisher House Foundation has again agreed to step up to aid families during the shutdown.
During the last shutdown that lasted 16 days in 2013, Fisher House provided $750,000 in grants to 30 families.
In a statement first reported by Stars & Stripes, Ken Fisher, chairman and CEO of Fisher House, said, "Families like the ones we helped in 2013 are very deserving. They are deeply dedicated to overcoming the challenges they confront."
He added, "Helping them isn't charity but rather this nation's solemn duty. In these very tough situations, they don't quit. Neither should we."
On Friday, as the shutdown loomed, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, contacted Fisher House and the non-profit agreed to compensate the families until government reimbursements can be made.
"I applaud Ken and the Fisher House for their dedication to serving our soldiers and their families during their time of need and especially as this senseless shutdown looms," Manchin said.
The two soldiers killed at Fort Irwin have yet to be identified.
In a statement, Maj. Gen. Randy George, commander of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, said, "Our heartfelt prayers and condolences go out to their families and friends during this difficult and painful time."
"The loss of any soldier truly saddens everyone here at the Mountain Post and it is a tremendous loss to the team," George said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.