National Guardsmen denied Arlington Burial

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National Guardsmen denied Arlington Burial

This is a sad story all around, no matter what you think about the internment at Arlington.

 Arlington National Cemetery says a Louisiana National Guardsman who was killed in a helicopter crash in the Gulf of Mexico can't be buried at the hallowed grounds because he was killed during a training exercise.

The burial plots are only for service members who die on active duty and space is limited, the cemetery says.

Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, 26, was among four guardsmen and seven Marines killed when Black Hawk helicopter crashed March 10 off of Florida.

The gist of the controversy, such as it is, revolves around the fact that SSG Florich was on training with the National Guard, not the regular army, and it wasn't part of a train up for deployment.  Had he been on Federal Orders, and the exact same thing happened, he would be eligible for Arlington Internment, but because he was on state orders, he is not.

It's hard for me to see how the orders really make that much of a difference, and even more hard to reconcile that basically everyone else on the bird can be buried there, and yet he can not.  His father appeared on FoxNews to discuss it:


I also understand that part of the issue is that Arlington is growing at a rate which is not sustainable. They are quite literally running out of space. So again, I'm not sure what to think on this one. I hate that the SSG can't be buried with those who also passed away, but I also understand the need for a set standard. Tell us what you think in the comments below, and go and answer the Big Q on this issue today.

Posted in the burner | 18 comments
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If SSG Florich was in a military pay status he should be treated as others on the flight as far as eligibility for an Arlington burial. If disallowed because it was a training (non-combat) mission
the restriction should apply to all on board the craft.

The Story seems to be saying that the Others who were killed were On Active Duty, including 7 Marines, not Guardsmen on a short Training assignment.
The Requirements for burial Arlington make that distinction pretty clearly.
Even Active Duty people have had problems obtaining Plot in Arlington as spaces have become difficult to obtain.
Sad but True: The cemetery has no room to "Grow" unless Congress is willing to Sacrifice one of the Other National Monuments in the area or spend Millions$$ to purchase any Other property adjacent to the current property.
I can just See the amount of pure Hatred that might be generated by any such proposals.

There was a time when very few National Guardsmen were deployed and nearly all could go through their entire careers without deployment. Today many of the National Guardsmen see multiple deployments into some of the most hostile fields of engagement. They are dying and becoming casualties along side of the regular troops. It is time to revisit this policy. There is a point where Arlington will not be able to take more to be interred. Until then let's see if we can make room for this one.

This latest disgrace that SSG Florich 's family is dealing with is just the tip of the ice berg of what National Guard soldiers must deal with every day. Even when we deploy the same as active duty solders we still get treated as second class soldiers. Especially when it comes to disability issues, awards, and medical treatment. Both the DOD and VA policies need to be adjusted to address some very specific areas. But of course it won't be. The National Guard is a convenient source of manpower without the need for giving respect to citizen soldiers.

My condolences go out to the family of SSG Florich. His loss is a tragedy but may prove to be a catalytic force for a policy change in Arlington's regs. While I understand the logic of their decision, I don't envy the PR black eye that they are now getting even if they are following their established protocol.

45 years ago, I enlisted in the Army reserves and like my peers, we learned quickly that while our service to our country was appreciated, it did not carry with it privileges that active duty troops earned - access to medical care through the VA (let's ignore the current controversy), GI bill education benefits, etc. Out of respect for my comrades in arms who did serve in country or on active duty that was not for training purposes, I understood our limitations as reservists and respected the sacrifice and service of active duty personnel.

Fast forward to 2015 and with the advent of an all-volunteer military. The distinction between reservist/ guardsman (includes guardswomen, too) and active duty personnel has been blurred because of the large number of both groups that have served deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Given that this trend will continue, it is incumbent on Arlington (via the Pentagon) to come up very soon with a fair, sustainable plan that will recognize this blurring of distinction of treat reservists and guardsmen with the same respect as full-time active duty personnel.

The family of SSG Florich is understandably grieving for their loss and the subsequent, unexpected disappointment of learning about burial policy that worked against their son. They should hold their heads high because irrespective of whose orders he was following (state vs. federal), he was a patriot serving his country and doing his duty. May the added sorrow that the Florich family experienced never be visited on any other families.

I agree with you. The active duty has been cut over the last couple of decades with the reservist and guard having to pickup the load. Their are many reservist and guard personal which have done more than one deployment in harms way. Their weekend drill and annual training is just like an active duty daily training. The reservist and guard personal need the same honors as active now days.

I agree with you. The active duty has been cut over the last couple of decades with the reservist and guard having to pickup the load. Their are many reservist and guard personal which have done more than one deployment in harms way. Their weekend drill and annual training is just like an active duty daily training. The reservist and guard personal need the same honors as active now days.

I would like to be buried Arlington after 30 years in the Corps but one must remember there are many state national cemeteries such as Fort Snelling in Minnesota that may not be at the historical level of Arlington but are just as meaningful.

With all the lands owned by the federal government that is being unused there is no reason they could not open another cemetery. Maybe it is time to open one on the west coast.

They have opened other cemeteries. There are National Cemeteries all over the United States. Multiple Cemeteries in every state. Most large Military Bases also have a cemetery.

I just have a question. Were any of the other service members buried there, either Guardsmen/women or Marines? I spent a year in Nam and really don't care where I'm buried. I would rather see all the members of the Armed Forces, both past and present, taken care of. Arlington Cemetery is no better or worse than any other National Cemetery. I'm sure I'll get static for saying this but does the family think that the other National Cemeteries not good enough?

In New York State on Long Island there are Pinelawn and Calverton National Cemetaries. They are well maintained and on certain holidays little flags are placed on each plot by volunteers such as Long Island Base Submarine Veterans. It would be closer for my family to visit than Arlington.I'm sure the same would apply to the SSG.Bury locally

Daniel Kehoe I agree with you 100% what wrong with State Cemetaries. I too am a Vet-Nam Vet and retired from the Army. And when they (The Military) ran out of caskets in 1968 they sent some of the body home in body bags. The family only got their dog tags and a letter. The WW1 & WW2 Vets a lot of them are buried in Europe. They have to limit what is left of Arlington, soon they won't be any space for anyone. Something to think about.

Obviously, now a days, his situation is the rule rather than the exception. RIP. Thank you for your service.

I think this ws a reprehensible act, what did it matter what organization SSG Florich belonged, he was ,ready to lay down his life in the service of his country just as the rest of us were, what was done to this young man was reprehensible and inexcusable.

I believe that being Killed in Action is very different than being killed in training regardless of duty status (orders, active Army and or other services, reserves, and/or guard). That being said I support Arlington's decision. I served as an Armor platoon leader at Fort Knox in 1968. The Unit (194th) lost three soldiers (all had done a full tour of duty in Vietnam) in training during my time there and my position stands the same for them as for SSG Florich. I thank SSG Florich for his service and my heart goes out to his family. I also served in Vietnam, 1969, with the 9th Infantry Division as an Infantry platoon leader. I was severely wounded in Vietnam by an IED (booby trap) and my platoon medic was KIA by the same IED. In addition, I believe that Arlington offered a compromise in that they would take SSG Florich if he was cremated. From my perspective the family had an option but chose to "make" a story out of this, guard versus active and/or killed in training versus KIA. The family really needs to decide which is more important here, Arlington versus another National Cemetery, as either will provide a "Honorable" burial for SSG Florich.

Stop interring politician there. Preserve the space for military.

Why is Ted Kennedy in Arlington? and John Kennedy Jr.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.