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CULVER CITY : Army Widow Seeks Medal, Compensation

November 10, 1994|MARY MOORE

More than six months after her husband's death in "friendly fire" over Iraq, Culver City resident Kaye Mounsey says she still has hope that the military will pay her husband, Erik, the respect she feels his memory deserves.

Though the Army will fly a helicopter missing-man formation in tribute to Erik Mounsey during a tree-planting ceremony in Culver City on Friday, Kate Mounsey said the military has ignored her plea for $94,000 in additional death benefits and a posthumous Purple Heart.

In what appears to be a case of mistaken identity, Erik Mounsey was killed by American F-15 fighter pilots when his Black Hawk helicopter shot down over Iraq a day before his 29th birthday. Mounsey was one of 26 passengers, including 11 foreign military personnel, aboard two Black Hawks that were flying a routine mission in a no-fly zone. The fighter pilots say they thought the helicopters belonged to the Iraqis.

While the United States government paid $100,000 in compensation to the families of the French, British, Turkish and Kurdish soldiers who died, Kate Mounsey, who has a 2-year-old daughter, has received only the normal $6,000 death benefit paid by the Army. The military contends that there are laws preventing it from increasing that amount.

Kate Mounsey and the families of the other American soldiers who died in the crash have started a letter-writing campaign. Backed by Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), they are requesting more money, and Mounsey says she will continue pushing until she gets some results.

"They need to be fair and offer American families the same, or not offer anyone anything," she says.

Her efforts to secure a Purple Heart for her husband have been slightly more successful. Dixon has included in the defense appropriations budget a request to award the Purple Heart to Mounsey and the other Americans who died. The military must respond to the request by the end of March.

"At first I thought, 'The Purple Heart, it's just a medal, it won't bring him back,' " she said. "But it would at least show that the government acknowledges what he did."

Culver City will pay tribute to Erik Mounsey during the city's Veterans Day activities. The city will plant a tree next to the entrance to Culver Park and erect a monument in Mounsey's memory.

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