The Department of Veterans Affairs' motto is "to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."
The meaning of those words was perhaps never more apparent than in the case of Irene Triplett, who died Tuesday from surgical complications following a fall at a North Carolina nursing home, according to The Wall Street Journal. She was the last person to receive a pension from a veteran's Civil War service.
Her father, Mose Triplett, fought on both sides of the Civil War, first as a rebel and later as a Yankee. Mose realized he was on the losing side after falling ill before the Battle of Gettysburg. Almost 92% of his unit, the 26th North Carolina Infantry, was wiped out in the fighting.
The decision to switch to the Union Army did more than save his life; it earned him a VA pension, one that has paid out every month since the end of the war in 1865.
Decades after Mose left the Army, he married Elida Hall -- his second wife. A few years later, they had a baby. Hall was only 34 years old when she gave birth to Irene in 1930. Mose was 83.
When Mose died in 1938 at the age of 92, his pension was extended first to his wife, then to Irene. Every month since, the VA has paid Irene Triplett $73.13. By the time of her death, the family had been collecting the pension for 155 years.
While the pension may have helped them financially, the lives of mother and daughter were anything but easy. The two suffered from mental disabilities and were in and out of poor houses and nursing homes.
Irene may also have been the last surviving child of a Civil War veteran. In 2017, 97-year-old Fred Upham died. Upham, whose father fought in the First Battle of Bull Run, was featured in a 2014 National Geographic story about his father's service.
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