SFC Durbin is currently serving a tour of duty in Iraq. He makes a few excellent points about the rendering of honors for our fallen soldiers at our Nations most prestigious National Military Cemetery.
While serving in The Army Honor Guard (The Old Guard) as a Full Honor Casket Team Squad Leader, I was responsible for carrying the Remains of deceased Army Officers on a regular basis, which included Former President Ronald Reagan. While there, I wondered why only Officers received Full Honor Funerals in Arlington National Cemetery (ANC), regardless of what they did or didn’t do in their careers. The difference between a Full and Standard Honor Funeral is dramatic. However, if one has not served in the Old Guard , one would never know the difference. In fact, the only way an Enlisted Service Member can receive a Full Honor Funeral is to be a Medal of Honor Recipient. The Medal of Honor is more often than not awarded posthumously. Well after burial. Therefore, an Enlisted Medal of Honor Recipient would not receive Full Honors at time of burial.
Basically, a Full Honors at Arlington consists of the following:
- Horse Drawn Caisson
- Transfer from Chapel to gravesite
- 8 pallbearers
- Army Band
- 1-2 escort marching Platoons
- Cannon Salutes for General Officers
- “Cap” Rider-less Horse(0-6 and above)
- Firing Party
A Standard Honors Funeral consists of the following:
- Hearse Transfer
- 6 Pallbearers
- Firing Party
Another common misconception is that CSM/SGMs receive Full Honors. In fact, they do not. In addition to the Standard Honors rendered above, a CSM/SGM is authorized a Caisson, 1 escort marching platoon and a drummer to keep escort platoon in-step while marching.
I would add that the above Special Officer Honors rendered at Arlington National Cemetery are not offered at any other National Cemetery in the United States. Why the discrimination. Is it simply a coincidence that Arlington National Cemetery is across the street from the Pentagon? Honors at Arlington should mirror those of our other National Cemeteries.
For the past year, I have been addressing this issue with various Veterans Organizations of which I am a member. As well, I have addressed them with Army Offices in Washington D.C. I have received little or no response. I’m currently addressing this with my Congressman’s Military Liaison. The ANC Superintendent sent me a response stating that he agreed with my position. However, he believed changes would be difficult to implement. I have talked to numerous Senior Officers and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers as well who support this and are addressing this in ways which they feel appropriate for them.
The bottom line is that a 2nd Lieutenant can die in a car accident 2 days after graduating Officer Candidate School. He will receive a Full Honor Funeral. Conversely, a Senior Enlisted member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard with 22 years of Service can die in Combat in Afghanistan or Iraq and be awarded a Silver Star for Valor. He or she receives a Standard Honor Funeral. In the most hallowed ground on American soil. A place which commands the respect of our nation. The burial ground of several Presidents. Audie Murphy. SGT York. Oliver Wendell Holmes, JR.
This issue deserves our attention. Honors rendered should be equal. Action based rather than rank. A panel should decide official criteria for Honors rendered based upon career, circumstances of death, combat record and the like. Not Rank. Funerals should be reminiscent of the Tombstones in Arlington. All the same.
At a minimum, all Service Members killed in Combat should receive a Full Honor Funeral. All other Service Members should have a simple funeral matching the eloquent simplicity of the white tombstones of Arlington National Cemetery themselves.
[This is from an email from SFC Durbin. I paraphrased and re-organized the email a bit before I posted it here.]
I served in The Old Guard from 1994-1997. I was in Alpha Company “CinC Guard” on Fort McNair. I understand what SFC Durbin is saying here. I have always felt that it is disgraceful the manner in which the US Military treats it’s Enlisted soldiers. Not only in death but in retirement as well as on active duty. Enlisted Retirees and Vets are discarded as if they are but so much waste in a dumpster. Such is my opinion.
I agree wholeheartedly with the above. Full Honors should be given to all of the Nations soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who fall in combat. These men and women have laid down their lives in the greatest sacrifice that our Nation could ask of anyone. They should be honored as if such were the case. What does rank matter at such a time. It should not.
Anyone who wishes to assist, can contact SFC Durbin at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your Congressman or Senator.