Military stories from past to present, both wars.

Death on Dying

September 24th, 2007 Posted in The SandGram v1.0

During the Vietnam War, when a young Marine reported into his unit (true today as well), they went through all your paperwork to make sure you were up to date on your rifle range and gas chamber training, health physical, dental, and also your SGLI (Service Group Life Insurance) to determine if you had designated a beneficiary. I think back then if you died you would get 25K, but you could opt to increase to 75 or 100K for an extra five dollars a month. I guess a lot of young Marines opted for the free amount to save money for the Friday beer night.

In one unit (as the story goes), they put a young, motivated Corporal in charge of some of these classes, and they noticed that his sign-up rate for the higher insurance amount was around 100%. The S-1 Admin Officer was curious how this kid was able to convince these other young Marines to spend more money when they hardly made enough to live on in the first place. Mind you, this was during the war as well, so the Officer snuck in the back of the building to hear his pitch.

The Corporal went through the whole presentation, and at the end, when he explained about opting for the higher insurance, he said, “So Marines, think about this. If you opt for the extra insurance and you go over to Vietnam, who do you think they are going to put on the front lines? The guy that is going to cost the Government $25,000 dollars if he dies or the guy that is worth $100,000?”

Of course this isn’t true, but it does bring up a point that I want you to read, then re-read and pass on to everyone. This isn’t just for the Marine or Soldier going over to the War, it’s for everyone, guy or gal. We all believe that we’ll live forever! I mean it. When you are young, you are bullet proof and as you get older, you just never expect that you will die. Well, I am speaking as a guy who lost his sister while in college, his college roommate fifteen months later, and about a dozen guys in plane crashes over my adult life. With this in mind, I came up with a “What if” file.

The “What if” file is a complete folder for my next of kin on what to do if I get whacked by a drunk driver in the morning on the way to work. This is to ensure that my wife and parents would not have to search through old papers, files, boxes in the closet etc to track down my investments, mortgages, car info, work info, passwords etc. Now mind you, the “what if” file is a VERY important document, and should be placed in your fire proof home safety deposit box or gun safe, or with your folks and/or your wife in a safe, secure place. It would be bad news falling into the wrong hands with all that info in one place.

Here is what I did when I married my beautiful wife. I wrote a letter to her, very personal and with the intent that it would my last words to her. I also told her what needed to be done and in what order.
Within the folder, you should have:
-Copies of all bank statements
-All online passwords
-Account numbers
(these are required to cancel credit cards and find out what bills have to be paid)
-Copies of all life insurance policies
-POC’s (point of contact) and correct phone numbers
-Copies of your investments and assets
-POC within the state to get copies of your death certificates, how many copies and who to send them to in order to collect insurance and notify Social Security
-POC (supervisor) at work to notify so they don’t call wondering where you are
-Passwords for email accounts, so that your family can send out an email using your address book to notify all your contacts about your death or serious injury. Otherwise your family will have to provide AOL or MSN with death certificates to get into the mail accounts
-An envelope with $1,000 in cash to cover immediate and unforeseen needs
-Instructions for how you want to be buried, where, what etc.
-Copy of your current (valid) will (if you don’t have one, you can get from your legal department or online for a nominal fee. will do it)
-Copies of your Living Will/Advance Directive/and Power of Attorney (if needed)
-List the value of certain items in your estate that might be worth some money (you don’t want them sold for pennies on a dollar at an estate sale)

This is just a start, a basic roadmap for you. There are many more things you can add to it. I’m death on Marines who don’t have this set up, and so is my Dad who has an extensive “what if” file. I’ve seen too many cases where a Marine has died, and he didn’t switch over his life insurance from his EX-wife who he hates, and she now has won the lotto with a tax-free check while his present wife gets nothing. That is pure laziness and I despise it. Just remember that dying is the easy part of life; it’s the loved ones you leave behind that suffer. If you have your life tied together in a “What If” folder, when that unexpected time comes, it will make life so much easier for the ones left behind. If you care about your spouse/kids and folks, take the time today to start putting one of these together, and store it in your home fireproof safety deposit box(but watch out if you use a banks they will close those up tight till the probate of the will if you don’t clean it out fast).

I hope this post helps. Please copy it, and send it to your friends and family. I would be willing to bet you a beer that if polled, only about one out of ten will have anything remotely set up like a “What If” file.

Semper Fi,