Army extends honors to enlisted soldiers
ARLINGTON, Va. — All soldiers killed in action will receive full military funeral honors when they are laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, the Army has announced.
Effective in early 2009, the change means enlisted soldiers killed in combat will receive the same honors usually reserved for officers killed in action, including a caisson, band, colors team and escort platoon, an Army news release said.
"The caisson, band, colors team and escort platoon are scheduled on a first come, first served basis," Monday’s news release said.
The new policy creates a "common standard" for all soldiers killed in action who are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Army Secretary Pete Geren said in Monday’s news release.
Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman Joe Davis urged the other services to do likewise.
"If the Army can make this change for their enlisted troops, the other three services should do likewise, because you only get one chance to properly honor the fallen and pay homage to their families who also sacrificed," Davis said Tuesday.
Enlisted Marines laid to rest at Arlington do not receive full military honors, a Marine Corps spokesman said Tuesday. Naval officers are given full honors when they are buried at Arlington, including an escort platoon, band, caisson and colors team, said Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. John Daniels. Enlisted sailors receive standard honors at Arlington: Body bearers and a firing party, Daniels said. The Air Force said it is is in the process of reviewing the impact of expanding honors for all enlisted airmen killed in action to include a band and an Army caisson.
The Army has provided its policy change to the other services and are waiting to see if they want to make changes to military honors rendered to Marines, sailors and airmen killed in combat, said Army spokesman Paul Boyce.
Last spring, the Military Times newspapers published a letter from Sgt. 1st Class Robert Allen Durbin about the disparity in the honors rendered to officers and enlisted soldiers at Arlington.
"A 2nd Lieutenant can die in a car accident 2 days after graduating Officer Candidate School and get a Full Honor Funeral, while a Master Sergeant in the Army, Air Force, Marine Corp[s], or Navy with 22 years of Service can die in Combat in Afghanistan or Iraq, receive a Silver Star for Valor, and receive a Standard Honor Funeral. This is flat out disgraceful," Durbin wrote.
On Tuesday, Durbin said he felt the need to voice his concerns after serving as a Full Honors Casket Team squad leader on the Old Guard at Fort Myer, Va.
"It really hit home on Feb. 8, 2008, when my unit over here in Iraq lost 4 soldiers from an IED, one of which was later buried in Arlington," Durbin said.
He also said he hopes the other services follow the Army’s example.
"Our servicemembers that sacrifice all deserve every honor available to them at burial, they are true heroes, no one is better than the other based off one having a college degree and one not," Durbin said.
Criteria for full funeral honors
- Death as a result of enemy action against the United States
-Death in an action with armed forces of foreign country against which the United States is engaged
-Killed while serving with friendly forces in a conflict to which the United States is not a party
-Killed by an act of any enemy of "opposing armed forces" or any "hostile foreign force"
-Killed in a terrorist attack against the United States or a U.S. ally
-Killed by friendly fire