FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Lauren Tomkiewicz, the widow of Capt. Matthew J. Tomkiewicz, proposed two amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act after witnessing how her husband’s death was handled.

On Wednesday, Rep. Jim Banks secured the inclusion of two legislative proposals during markup of the House FY2023 NDAA.

The first amendment ensures that the remains of U.S. service members are transferred on military aircrafts. If circumstances prevent this guarantee, the family of the servicemember must be notified and sign a waiver allowing commercial transfer of remains. 

The second proposal requires the next of kin be notified within four hours of the death of a U.S. servicemember, as opposed to the current 8-24 hour requirement.

This isn’t the final step for the legislation. It still has to pass through Congress.

Lauren Tomkiewicz grieves at the casket of her husband Capt. Matthew Tomkiewicz upon his arrival at the 122nd Fighter Wing ANG base Indiana. The couple’s dog, Kevin Bacon, is by her side. Tomkiewicz and three others died during a training mission March 18, near Bodo Norway. The Marines were participating in Exercise Cold Response 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo/Douglas Hays)

Lauren Tomkiewicz had this to say about the proposals:

“These amendments are not about politics, but rather the policies that are set, in writing, about the people who deserve the most from our nation.”

“No military spouse should ever have to wait the agonizing 23 hours I waited to hear my husband was killed. Due to the current archaic system, my official notification came nearly 15 hours after I read about it on social media. This amendment is imperative in updating the notification process by allowing this policy to adapt to current times and technology.” 

In addition, no military spouse should ever have to hear ‘your husband is 100% coming back home via commercial aircraft transfer.’ This amendment helps give power back to the family, while also holding Mortuary Affairs Operations accountable in actually following current policy guidelines. The families of those who make the ultimate sacrifice should become the ultimate priority. 

“To my husband, my Matty, you deserved so much better and I love you. To the next spouse that will inevitably be handed a folded flag, I am doing this for you. I am disappointed this system failed me, but I will never stop using my voice to help prevent any unnecessary, additional heartache of my fellow Gold Star Families.”

Rep. Banks issued this statement after securing the inclusion of the proposals:

“While grieving the tragic loss of her husband Capt. Matthew Tomkiewicz, Lauren has remained determined to help other families of servicemembers by improving the flawed notification and transfer processes. I’m honored and thankful that Lauren trusted me to help turn these ideas into laws and I am inspired by her strength and grace.”

U.S. Marine Corps Captain Matthew Tomkiewicz was a MV-22B Osprey pilot who died during a training exercise in Norway. Captain Tomkiewicz was born and raised in Fort Wayne.