Sessions Optimistic about Bill

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Army Private First Class Howard Johnson, II had big plans for when he returned home from combat duty in Iraq.

He was going to earn two college degrees, then get a job to help his mother pay for a day care business, but the Mobile, Ala. soldier was killed 15 months ago when his convoy was ambushed.

As devastating as that news was for his parents, it got even worse when they learned the Army would only pay for a small part of their son's burial and provide no further compensation because he hadn't purchased military life insurance.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, said Johnson's story and that of Johnny "Mike'' Spann, a CIA agent killed in an Afghanistan prison uprising, inspired his proposal to enhance death benefits for the families of those killed in combat overseas.

Sessions' proposal includes a full year's salary and benefits for the families and was approved by the Senate Thursday as part of a package of defense projects. It now goes to negotiations with the House, where Sessions said he is optimistic of the outcome.