Blackburn, Colleagues Honor Veterans With Gold Star Family Fellowship

November 11, 2021

NASHVILLE, TENN. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) along with Senators Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Joni Ernst (R- Iowa), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Gary Peters (D-Mich), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) applauded the passage of the Sergeant First Class Sean Cooley and Specialist Christopher Horton Congressional Gold Star Family Fellowship Program Act. The legislation will create a fellowship program in the Senate to offer an opportunity for Gold Star family members to participate in the system of government for which their loved one gave his or her life.


“Gold Star families are bonded by a common thread of loss, grief, and sacrifice,” said Senator Blackburn. “It is a privilege to have championed this legislation to honor the service of our fallen warriors. This fellowship will offer opportunities to their families, and help members of Congress truly understand the costs of fighting for freedom. It is my hope that future Gold Star fellows will find renewed hope and healing as they channel their voices to affect positive change.”


“Gold Star families shoulder the heavy price paid for the defense of our freedoms and the safety of Americans at home and abroad,” said Senator Crapo. “While being a Gold Star family carries a deeply profound honor, it is one no family wishes to have. Our resolution gives Gold Star family members the opportunity to work in and experience first-hand the system of government for which their loved one bravely sacrificed his or her life.”


“We must never lose sight of the sacrifices made by our Gold Star Families,” said Senator Ernst. “I'm proud the bipartisan effort to create a Gold Star Family Fellowship Program passed the Senate, providing the loved ones of our fallen heroes the opportunity to serve in Senate offices.”


“Veterans Day is where we show our enormous and humble gratitude for those who have borne our flag and heroically served our country,” said Senator Hagerty. “We also pause to remember the families—moms, dads, brothers, sisters— of our fallen soldiers, and are grateful for their love and sacrifice, which is unfathomable. I am pleased to join Senator Blackburn in supporting this legislation that would create a meaningful fellowship program for Gold Star families to participate and make a lasting difference in our government.”


“Gold Star family members are intimately aware of the sacrifice that service members make in order to protect our freedoms,” said Senator Hassan. “It is important to have their perspectives in the Senate as we work on ways to strengthen support for service members and their families. I’m glad to have helped introduce this bipartisan resolution, and I will continue working to help service members and their families.”

“Gold Star families have given so much for this country,” Senator Wicker said. “This fellowship program would allow families to engage with the highest levels of government and share their experiences directly with lawmakers. It is a great way to honor our Gold Star veterans such as Mississippi veteran Sgt. 1st Class Sean Cooley, who made the ultimate sacrifice. I look forward to seeing the program grow in years to come.”


“Our Gold Star Families have suffered through the profound pain of losing a loved one in service to our country and made an immense sacrifice for our nation,” said Senator Rosen. "The creation of this new fellowship program will offer Gold Star family members the chance to get involved in Congress and an opportunity to create change.”


“Gold Star families have sacrificed so much in defense of our nation. The pain and loss that Gold Star families endure is unimaginable, and we must continue supporting them,” said Senator Peters. “I was honored to join my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to pass this legislation, which will give Gold Star family members firsthand experience in the inner-workings of government and an opportunity to share their valuable perspectives that can lead to real, positive change for communities across our country.”


“Gold Star families have given so much in service to our country,” said Senator Hoeven. “This legislation provides an opportunity for members of Congress to work more closely with and learn from these individuals and honor the sacrifice of their loved ones.”


“I am so incredibly excited and grateful for Senator Blackburn’s leadership in creating the Senate SFC Shane Cooley and SPC Christopher Horton Gold Star Family Fellowship,” said Jane Horton, Gold Star widow of Specialist Christopher Horton. “Back in World War I widows were on the front lines serving as nurses and helping in any way they could – I have strongly felt like there were not that many opportunities for my generation of Gold Star families to serve. There is nothing more healing than serving, and making this country that our loved ones fought, bled, and died for a better place for all. To give Gold Star family members opportunities to create change in this country by inspiring and writing legislation and laws is one of the greatest gifts one could give my community. The only qualification is that you have a high school diploma. This is a full-time paid job with benefits. There are 40 openings currently on the House side. This job can be done from your home state in your own district or at the United States Capitol in Washington DC.”


“Gold Star families have a unique perspective on life because our loved ones were Killed In Action while serving our Country,” said Tabitha Farmer, founder of We Got This Foundation and Gold Star widow of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Farmer. “The SFC Sean Cooley and SPC Christopher Horton Congressional Gold Star Family Fellowship Program Act will help Gold Star families heal by giving a voice to the ones left behind and the ability to serve our country in the government while honoring our loved one’s commitment to the United States of America. This Act is close to my heart because Jane Horton is a dear friend of mine.  Maybe someday my children and I can work for our Congressional members and Senators because of her husband’s sacrifice. I am extremely grateful to Senator Blackburn’s dedication to Gold Star Families like ours, Veterans and active Military. She never forgets us. “


“This nation owes the fullest support possible to our Gold Star families and The American Legion works diligently to ensure they are given the best our country has to offer them,” said The American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard. “One important way that can be done is to give family members a means to participate in the government for which their loved ones sacrificed so much. We applaud Senator Blackburn’s leadership and The American Legion looks forward to working with the fellows who participate in this program.”


“The Association of the United States Army is proud to support legislation that could give Gold Star families the opportunity to help shape legislation through a two-year fellowship program in the office of a member of Congress,” said The Association of the United States Army. “We’re also pleased the program is named for two Army National Guard soldiers, Oklahoma’s Spc. Christopher Horton and Mississippi’s Sgt. 1st Class Sean M. Cooley, who were both killed in action. The Gold Star Family Fellowship Program created by this bill recognizes survivors should have a part of policy decisions and deserve this unique opportunity.”




The fellowship program is funded through legislative branch appropriations, and the 24-month fellowship would be conducted in a Washington, D.C. or state office, at no cost to either the family member or the accepting Member of Congress.