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So much for a dignified burial at Arlington National Cemetery for a soldier killed in combat.

I was just over at looking to catch up on conservative opinion for the week, and instead I came across an outrage.  Conservative columnist Mike Gallagher tells the story of a soldier killed in Iraq who had made a simple request, should he die-- a dignified military funeral and burial.

This morning, I heard from an old friend of mine, someone I knew many years ago when I was a young man in Ohio. I could hear the pain and anger in his voice, even after not talking with him in a number of years.

One of his closest friends, a young man named Nicholas, was killed in Iraq last month. This hero soldier had recently married his sweetheart and was home on leave when he and his wife welcomed their new baby into the world. A few weeks later, Nicholas lost his life in Iraq while fighting for his country.

Nicholas had requested, in the event of his death in Iraq, that he be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  When I think of Arlington National Cemetery, I think of the kinds of images that exmearden used in her diary, Sotto voce...a folded flag.  I picture things like military escorts in spotless uniforms, a lone bugler playing Taps, 21 gun salutes. I'd seen the story in December of a soldier's coffin being unceremoniously transported on a baggage cart; but I would have at least thought that all the details of a hero's funeral and burial would have been attended to with the utmost care.

I guess I was wrong:

With the family gone and the area cleared out, my friends watched as four civilian workers began to handle the casket. The honor guard was gone, the military escort had left. Just four workers and a beloved soldier, husband, father, and friend in a casket.

The men struggled to lift the casket and put it into the vault, which was up on some kind of a forklift. Evidently, the walls of the grave that had been dug were collapsing and they weren’t able to lower the casket into the ground. They watched as the men basically dumped the casket, like a load of garbage, into the vault. It crashed into the container, and the forklift spun it around like a top. My friend said there could be no doubt that Nicholas’ body would have been thrown around in the casket. In fact, he believes that the casket would have been damaged considering the way the men tossed it around in the container.

The friends that witnessed the mistreatment of the casket contacted the cemetery superintendent's office and were told that it was an isolated incident, and that it would be too expensive to exhume the body of the soldier and restore it to a dignified position in the casket. So, we have family and friends left with the image of their hero balled up in a corner of his casket for eternity, for the sake of a little trouble and a few dollars.

I'm generally not a person who puts as much value in ceremony as some might, and this kind of topic is unusual for me, but since I found it on a conservative site that many might pass by, I thought I would bring this outrage to your attention.  

We need to be getting stuff like this right, for the sake of the suffering families and friends that our fallen soldiers leave behind.  And if we don't get it right, it needs to be made right.

The Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery is Mr. John C. Metzler, Jr. His address is Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia 22211.

The Garrison Commander, Ft. Myer, Va. is Colonel Thomas A. Allmon. Ft. Meyer provides logistical support for Arlington National Cemetery. The address is
Department of the Army
Fort Myer Military Community
204 Lee Avenue
Fort Myer, Virginia 22211-1199

(h/t Saint Paddy, commenter)

Originally posted to skymutt on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 10:05 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Huh? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AllisonInSeattle, marykk, possum, skymutt

    Don't they use those little sling-type thingies that I've seen at every funeral I've ever been to?

    •  Can't tell you, would assume so. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I've never been to a funeral at ANC though.

      YOU GO TO WAR WITH THE PRESIDENT YOU HAVE. You don't go to war with the President you wish you had. --Tim Ryan, D-OH

      by skymutt on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 11:31:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Right. (0+ / 0-)

      The vault should be in the ground to start with, then the casket is lowered into it. If a couple is being buried, you can obtain a type of two-layered vault. Frankly, this story makes no sense from a practical viewpoint.

      Be good to each other. It matters.[me] / John McCain

      by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 01:46:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, as I noted below... (0+ / 0-)

        ...the soldier appears to be real, and I can't think of any motive to make up such a story, can you? I agree that the process you describe sounds like the normal process; perhaps there was a vault in the ground, but since they couldn't lower it into the ground for whatever reason, they put the casket in a second vault, for what reason, I have no idea. I only can go off the story, and I have no reason to doubt it.

        YOU GO TO WAR WITH THE PRESIDENT YOU HAVE. You don't go to war with the President you wish you had. --Tim Ryan, D-OH

        by skymutt on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 02:21:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Arlington is in Virginia (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rockhound, possum, skymutt

    Jim Webb is the new Senator from Virginia.  He is also very concerned with Veteran's Affairs.  I would think that if enough people brought this to the attention of his office, he might look into it.

    It's disgraceful that this happened at Arlington.  

    I'll send a letter to Senator Webb's office, but it would probably be more effective if there was more than one.

    'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb

    by lcork on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 12:16:23 PM PST

  •  The problem is, he's dead in a meaningless war (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Coherent Viewpoint

    That's the problem.

    That's what bothers me.

    I'm sorry, maybe I should say nothing. But if we had an administration that put even the least bit of effort into diplomacy (talking things through) in our world, the least bit of effort into creating more peace vs more destruction...

    ...this young man would still be alive with his wife and baby.

    I've been through burying a loved one recently, and as far as I'm concerned, I don't want to know a thing about how their body was handled when I wasn't around. I really wasn't really prepared to handle the body myself. Wouldn't have minded if the person was cremated, but they didn't want to be.

    The operative problem, again, is that the person is dead. Not coming back.

    I apologize in advance if my view of this is so different from yours as to make no sense.

    Be good to each other. It matters.[me] / John McCain

    by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 01:45:04 AM PST

    •  If it bothered the friends of the soldier (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greeseyparrot bothers me.

      Sure, what happens wouldn't matter, if nobody saw it. Problem is, they apparently did.

      Funerals are for the living. The grieving family and friends deserve better.

      YOU GO TO WAR WITH THE PRESIDENT YOU HAVE. You don't go to war with the President you wish you had. --Tim Ryan, D-OH

      by skymutt on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 02:13:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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