So much for a dignified burial at Arlington National Cemetery for a soldier killed in combat.
I was just over at townhall.com 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, townhall.com commenter)