Thursday, May 31, 2007

Monthly memorial to replace individual soldier funeral

Fort Lewis was my favorite duty assignment of all. Not only did I serve in a great unit, the 1st Battalion 23rd Infantry "Tomahawks", but I enjoyed the mild winters and summers, as well as the scenery of Mt St Helens, Puget Sound and other west coast treasures.

Policy change happens in the Army quite often. Good or bad, we dealt with it.

However, recent changes to funeral policy are absolutely horrendous and need to be dealt with swiftly.

Soldiers from Fort Lewis are dying in such high numbers that the post is unable to perform individual ceremonies.

From the Post Commander
“As much as we would like to think otherwise, I am afraid that with the number
of soldiers we now have in harm’s way, our losses will preclude us from
continuing to do individual memorial ceremonies,”


I understand that the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood has adopted this policy as well.

Is this the military's version of McDonaldization? Providing a cookie cutter, carbon copy, one stop shop, funeral service for all?

Let's remember that we still don't see the flag draped coffins of our fallen heroes either.

Have we become so numb to this war that a monthly memorial suffices as our way of honoring our fallen?

Military funeral duty was the hardest duty I ever had. As a platoon sergeant, I led a funeral team from my platoon that would travel the region and perform military honors. Whether it was a World War II Vet, Vietnam, Active Duty soldier, the standard was high and the experience was powerful.

We had two groups. The actual funeral detail and the firing squad. The firing squad was off in the distance with one of my team leaders while I was with the funeral detail.

The soldiers on the detail folded the flag with flawless precision every time.

The 21 gun salute that was absolutely crisp, and despite the fact that I would provide the team with a covert signal to perform this right of passage, it always shook me when they fired.

I'll never forget taking that folded flag, with three spent casings in it, kneeling over to a widow, presenting the flag to them, "On behalf of a grateful nation..."

These ceremonies are powerfully personal.

To think that leaders back on my old post are now holding memorial ceremonies in much the same way I received Army Commendation Medals sickens me.

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