Johnson introduces ‘SPC Christian Ward Act’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 22, 2021

Legislation named in honor of former Washington County resident

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, introduced H.R. 3363, the “SPC Christian Ward Act,” in the House this week.

In June of 2019, Army SPC Christian Ward passed away following an accident while stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, Johnson’s office said. His family did not receive all of his possessions from the military contractor hired to send them home to Washington County. The family was told they needed to handle this themselves, to file a claim with the contractor to reimburse them for the missing possessions.

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SPC Ward was raised in Lowell, and his family still resides in the village in Washington County.

This legislation will require that if the Department of Defense (any military branch) hires a third-party contractor to transport the personal effects of a deceased servicemember, the DoD is then responsible for working with the third-party contractor to file claims and procedures relating to any missing items. Additionally, this bill makes the DoD responsible for reimbursing the family for the missing items should the third-party contractor be unable to deliver them.

“No grieving military family should be asked to file a claim with a third-party contractor they did not hire,” Johnson said. “In this case, the Army hired a contractor who failed to complete the job. This bill specifically states that the military branch is responsible for filing the claim in similar cases — not the family. What happened to the Ward Family should not ever happen to another military member’s family, and this legislation ensures it won’t.”

Gary Ward, Christian’s father, said when his son died in 2019, he became acutely aware of how precious his memories with him were.

“We had a limited time with our son when he entered the United States Army two weeks after his high school graduation,” Ward said. “He did extensive training as a crew chief on the UH 60Medevac Black Hawk and was stationed overseas and in Colorado. After he died, we did not receive precious personal possessions that we knew he owned and had at the time of his death. We grieve at the harsh reality that we do not have our son here, and we grieve at the fact that several of his items were not returned home to us. No other family should have to face that reality. We are incredibly thankful for Congressman Bill Johnson and his staff who have been fighting for this legislation, which will ensure that the military is responsible if personal property is not returned to next of kin.”