Every military death is a tragedy for the military community. But sometimes it feels like America as a whole has forgotten that men and women are still fighting -- and still dying. Once in awhile, however, the nation shows in a public way that they have seen the sacrifice and know that the debt can never be repaid in full, figuratively or literally, regardless of the cash given the family left behind.
A GoFundMe account set-up by a family friend for the family of Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar garnered $327,000 from 4,865 participants over the eight days it was live, with almost $300,000 of that in the first four days. The original goal of the fundraiser? $15,000.
Alencar is survived by his wife and five children. And while the military does pay out a death gratuity of $100,000 and up to $400,000 in SGLI benefits, that's not going to go far taking care of five kids, other military survivors told me.
That's not something many commenters on both this fundraiser and others like it posted in the past seem to understand. Experts with the USAA Educational Foundation, a non-profit focused on financial literacy, said that this issue is exactly why not just military families, but all families, need to have a good handle on what their life insurance should be.
"There really is no 'typical' for this topic, primarily because of all the variables that can come into play," said Scott Halliwell, a certified financial planner and director at the Foundation. "At its core, this issue is the exact reason people should do a life insurance needs analysis -- to make sure their survivors will have enough assets in the event of the death."
Fortunately for families like the Alencars, people are willing to give -- and give big.
"This fund was set up for people in our community to donate and reach out to help a brother who was killed," wrote a person who responded to an email I sent to the GoFundMe fundraiser page but did not give their name. "Words don't effect people who do what we do. Comments can come in any directions they like."
The account's organizer, Nikki Damron, posted that all funds are being handed over to Task Force Dagger, a registered non-profit, where they can be accessed by Alencars' family tax-free.