- Executive Office of Public Safety and Security
Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Files Bill to Honor Veterans Lost to Service-Related Illness
Boston — The Baker-Polito Administration today filed legislation to create a Massachusetts Medal of Fidelity, which will be presented by the Massachusetts National Guard to the families of veterans who lost their lives to service-related illnesses and injuries.
“This legislation will provide an opportunity for the Commonwealth to recognize the tragic toll that service-related illnesses and injuries can take on the brave men and women who serve in our nation’s armed forces,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The Medal of Fidelity will honor their families and loved ones, as well as those veterans whose deaths were related to the invisible wounds of war and other conditions resulting from their combat service.”
The bill, entitled “An Act Relative to Establishing the Massachusetts Medal of Fidelity,” will authorize the Commonwealth to award the Medal of Fidelity to the next-of-kin of Massachusetts service members who “died as the result of service-connected diseases, conditions or injuries that are related to either exposure to harmful toxins, herbicides, agents, and materials or combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder.”
“This bill reflects our administration’s recognition that these conditions and illnesses related to combat service can contribute to the death of our heroic veterans,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “It also allows us to honor them and the families they leave behind, many of whom struggled alongside their loved ones and made their own very real sacrifices.”
As a complement to the Medal of Liberty, which is presented to the families of Massachusetts veterans who die of combat-related physical injuries, the Medal of Fidelity will recognize service-connected injuries related to exposure to harmful substances, such as Agent Orange, as well as death attributed to combat-related mental illness.
“The Administration’s bill reflects our shared concern for all Massachusetts veterans, and especially those whose brave service came with great sacrifice,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Tom Turco. “The Medal of Fidelity is one small way we can honor everything they – and their families – gave to the nation.”
“The impact of service extends beyond active duty, with service-related illnesses including less obvious, but equally important service related health issues, such as PTSD, depression, and substance use disorder, which affect individual veterans and their loved ones,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “This new honor underscores Massachusetts’ dedication to all veterans and all of their service related health issues, and expresses our gratitude to those who lost their lives and their families.”
“Those who have served recognize that military service may leave both visible and invisible wounds on the lives of the faithful and selfless men and women who chose to serve our country, hundreds of thousands of whom are from Massachusetts” said Acting Secretary of Veterans’ Services Cheryl Lussier Poppe. “This will afford us another opportunity to recognize our deceased heroes and their loved ones, who have sacrificed so much for us.”
“This is the first medal of its kind given by the Commonwealth to recognize veterans who have lost their lives because of service-connected illness and injuries,” said Maj. Gen. Gary W. Keefe, The Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard. “It represents the duty and commitment of service members and their faithfulness to the nation. The medal also demonstrates the Commonwealth’s commitment to support them and their families before, during and after military service.”
The bill will also authorize a commission to make Medal of Fidelity award recommendations to the Governor. The commission will be composed of The Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard and two field grade officers of the armed forces of the Commonwealth.