Above: Gottheimer introduces Jennifer Albuquerque as his guest to tonight’s State of the Union address.
Today, February 4, 2020, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) introduced Jen Albuquerque as his guest to the State of the Union address tonight. To support military families and surviving loved ones, Gottheimer announced he’s cosponsoring and writing to House leadership to push for an immediate vote on the bipartisan Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Improvement Act. Gottheimer also announced the creation of the new Fifth District Sergeant First Class Michael Goble Memorial Award, to honor North Jersey’s unsung heroes committed to supporting military families and veterans.
Sergeant First Class Michael Goble, a North Jersey native, was killed this past December while serving our country in Afghanistan. Goble was a member of the U.S. Special Forces, originally from Washington Township in Bergen County, and graduated from Westwood High School. Goble was with his unit in the Kunduz Province clearing out a Taliban weapons cache when he was fatally injured from an explosion.
Goble was set to return home just a few weeks later from his fourth and final tour of duty.
Albuquerque and Goble met nearly ten years ago and together have a beautiful six-year-old daughter, Zoey.
“It is our duty as Americans not only to honor these men and women, but to do everything we can to fight for their surviving loved ones, to ensure they have the care they need, and the support we all owe them,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Together, by taking care of our military families, surviving loved ones, and veterans in North Jersey, continuing to work across the aisle, and fighting for change here in Congress, we can live up to our nation’s commitment to those who gave the last full measure of devotion.”
“Mike was just like many of us, with hopes and dreams. He lived his life filled with friends, family, hobbies, and lots of activities. But Mike was also different. Mike was a Green Beret, one of America’s finest warriors. Mike loved his job and he loved his country. He was a true patriot,” Jen Albuquerque said today. “He died while fighting our nation’s enemies. He died while making the world a better place for all of us and for all our children.”
Goble’s military awards and recognitions included the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.
Gottheimer’s announcement today to boost support for military families and their loved ones includes the following measures:
- Gottheimer will cosponsor and lead a bipartisan letter calling on House leadership to bring up the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Improvement Act for an immediate vote. This bipartisan legislation increases the benefits of Gold Star families after tragically losing a loved one
- Gottheimer announced the creation of the Fifth District Sergeant First Class Michael Goble Memorial Award to honor the unsung efforts of residents in North Jersey committed to caring for military families and families.
- Gottheimer has cosponsored the BRAVE Act — a bipartisan bill to increase investment from the VA for burial and funeral expenses of veterans and expenses from a veteran’s death due to a service-connected disability.
- Gottheimer has cosponsored the Honoring Veterans Families Act — bipartisan legislation to authorize the Secretary of the VA to provide inscriptions for spouses and children on headstones and markers of the fallen.
- In December, the House passed the Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act, so military survivor benefits received by children as earned income are tax exempt.
- The House passed the Fallen Heroes Family Travel Act, for the Secretary of Defense to provide family members of the Armed Forces who die outside of the United States with travel to Dover Air Force Base.
- The House also passed the Shauna Hill Post 9/11 Education Benefits Transferability Act.
- Gottheimer cosponsored and helped pass the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act which eliminates the ‘widows tax,’ an unreasonable deduction in benefits that is placed on surviving spouses of service members when their spouse passed away during active duty.
Video of today’s announcement can be found HERE.
Gottheimer remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
Today, I’m very proud to be standing here with Jen Albuquerque, a true hero in her own right.
Jen will be joining me this evening, as my guest, along with the rest of the U.S. House and Senate, our Supreme Court Justices, and the Cabinet, for the President’s State of the Union address.
Jen is one of the most courageous individuals I’ve ever had the honor to meet. Most recently, she has dealt with a tragedy no loved one should have to face — the loss of her partner, the father of her six-year-old daughter, a brave American hero.
Sergeant First Class Michael Goble, a North Jersey native, was killed just over a month ago while serving our country in Afghanistan.
The U.S. special forces soldier — originally hailing from Washington Township in Bergen County and graduating from Westwood High School — was with his unit in the Kunduz Province, two days before Christmas, clearing out a Taliban weapons cache when he was fatally injured from an explosion.
Sergeant Goble, who graduated as a Green Beret in 2007, was set to return home just a few weeks later from his fourth and final tour of duty supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.
Sergeant Goble was a patriot and an American hero, who put his life on the line through four tours of duty, all in the name of protecting our democracy and the greatest country the world has ever seen. He guarded our nation, the fifty stars on our flag, and everything we all hold dear.
Sergeant Goble’s parents are both proud Fifth District residents — where Michael grew up around many cousins, with whom he remained close throughout his life, despite distance when on a tour of duty.
In addition to his stellar service protecting our nation, which earned him awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star, Michael was known and admired for being a great father to his and Jen’s six-year-old daughter. Jen says Zoey and Mike had a very special bond. He loved to skydive, and Jen told me about how he was rebuilding his Ford Bronco — something he never got to finish.
Something I heard from Sergeant Goble’s closest friends, when we all gathered for his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, was that he called his daughter Zoey, “My cuties,” and “Zoe Zoe.”
I’ve also heard from his family all about how strongly Michael loved our country.
Sergeant Goble was a true American hero whose sacrifice will live on in the American values we hold so dear. He is now immortalized through a white headstone at Arlington National Cemetery, and his story will be passed down from one generation to the next. To Jen and Zoey, and Sgt. Goble’s mother and father – and all families who carry on the legacy of our brave heroes – a grateful nation thanks you and will always stand by you.
But there are no words to describe the sacrifice Sergeant Goble and his family made for our country, and there are no words to describe Jen’s loss.
Now, when I say Jen is just as courageous, I mean not only for herself, but for Michael’s family, for their beautiful daughter Zoey, and to keep Michael’s memory and his heroism alive.
There is no commitment more sacred than the one our nation has to those who have served – and to always remember those who, as Abraham Lincoln said, “gave the last full measure of devotion.
We must work together to ensure that our nation proves worthy of their sacrifice.
It is our duty as Americans not only to honor these men and women, but to do everything we can to fight for their surviving loved ones, to ensure they have the care they need, and the support we all owe them. This is an idea that goes back to our founding.
The mission statement of the VA is inscribed outside the Department’s headquarters. It reads: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” This is President Lincoln’s promise to serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s heroes, and it should and must be our same commitment today.
After a brave member of our military makes the ultimate sacrifice, we must always fight for their family, and to honor their memory. But we cannot stop there. What we need to truly support the families and loved ones of our military, and especially of our fallen, is a full legislative agenda.
That’s why, today, I’m cosponsoring — and calling for an immediate vote — on bipartisan legislation to support surviving military families — the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Improvement Act. I will be joining a bipartisan group of my colleagues in the coming day in a letter to the House leadership asking them to bring this bill to a vote, without delay.
This is bicameral, bipartisan legislation — in both the House and the Senate — that would increase the benefits that Gold Star families receive after tragically losing a loved one in service to our nation.
The VA’s Death and Indemnity Compensation Benefit, or D.I.C., is a tax-free monthly benefit that surviving spouses or dependents receive after losing a loved one in service to our nation. Currently, this amounts to about 40 percent of what a veteran with a full service-connected disability rating receives from the VA.
Many other federal survivor programs, on the other hand, provide up to 55 percent of what a civil servant would receive. This bill would increase the benefits that families like Jen’s receive by about $300 per month, improving the program by bringing benefits for surviving military families like hers more in line with those of federal employees.
I’m also proud to be a cosponsor of key pieces of legislation to support military families and the loved ones of our nation’s fallen heroes.
I’ve cosponsored the BRAVE Act — a bipartisan bill to increase investment from the VA for burial and funeral expenses of veterans and expenses from a veteran’s death due to a service-connected disability.
I’ve also cosponsored the Honoring Veterans Families Act — bipartisan legislation to authorize the Secretary of the VA to provide inscriptions for spouses and children on headstones and markers of the fallen.
While I’ll continue fighting for these measures, Congress has already made important steps in supporting these families — important pieces of legislation I’ve been proud to cosponsor.
In December, the Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act passed the House, so that military survivor benefits received by children as earned income are tax exempt. There was broad, bipartisan support for this bill which sought to eliminate the military ‘kiddies tax,’ righting a wrong that saddled our most heroic families with sudden tax increases on their survivor benefits.
The House passed the Fallen Heroes Family Travel Act, for the Secretary of Defense to provide family members of members of the Armed Forces who die outside of the United States with travel to Dover Air Force Base.
Congress has also passed the Shauna Hill Post 9/11 Education Benefits Transferability Act.
I’m especially proud that the House passing the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act, which eliminates the ‘widows tax,’ an unreasonable deduction of benefits for surviving spouses of service members.
A new change to the House rules this year, pushed forward by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which I Co-Chair, paved the way for this bill to pass the House once it garnered over 290 cosponsors.
This is what happens when both sides come together — Republicans and Democrats — to support what matters most. Standing by our service men and women both during their service and after should never be partisan. It’s about what I believe – putting America first – ahead of party. Just like how those on both sides came together in the past to support my bipartisan legislation to accelerate the hiring of post-9/11 veterans at the VA, which was signed into law.
While I’m continuing to push for these important measures here in Congress, I also want to help Sergeant Goble’s heroism and memory live on back at home in North Jersey as well.
To help in those efforts, today, I am announcing a new honor for New Jersey’s Fifth Congressional District.
I work closely with our local officials, faith leaders, and community leaders to always honor great work being done by unsung heroes throughout North Jersey.
To honor those who work hard to honor and care for our veterans or military families, I am announcing today the creation of the Fifth District Sergeant First Class Michael Goble Memorial Award.
My goal is to honor the everyday efforts — the unsung heroes — whose commitment to our military families or veterans shines throughout our community.
Jen, I hope this helps Michael’s memory live on at home in North Jersey.
Together, by taking care of our military families, surviving loved ones, and veterans in North Jersey, continuing to work across the aisle, and fighting for change here in Congress, we can live up to our nation’s commitment to those who gave the last full measure of devotion.
We must always have their backs.
I want to thank Jen for joining me here in Washington. It will be my honor to have her as my guest at the State of the Union address later tonight, to continue to shine a light on more our nation should be doing to support our military families, and to honor Sergeant Goble’s sacrifice and memory.
These are not red or blue issues — they are red, white and blue.
We are one nation, and we must reach across the aisle and protect and care for the loved ones of those who have protected us. I know, here in the greatest country in the world, our best days will always be ahead of us.
God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America.