How to honor non-combat military deaths?
March 1, 2013
WASHINGTON -- Jack Fletcher doesn’t have an objection to the new Distinguished Warfare Medal. He just thinks that his son, a soldier who died in the line of duty, deserves an award as well.
“There are a lot of troops and families who fall through the cracks,” he said. “It’s baffling to me that everyone who loses their life serving honorably in the military isn’t somehow honored.”
Fletcher’s son, Lt. Robert “Bart” Fletcher, was shot and killed by a fellow soldier during a confrontation over missing weapons at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2008. Because the attack was not combat-related, he was not eligible for the Purple Heart.
As Pentagon officials work to recognize the exemplary actions of servicemembers serving safely away from the battlefield, Fletcher and his supporters want military leaders to honor non-combat casualties who have sacrificed their lives in service.
“You feel slighted, because your son or daughter didn’t get any recognition,” the elder Fletcher said. “That’s extremely painful for a grieving family.”
Lawmakers have unsuccessfully wrestled with the issue in recent years, sparring over whether to make casualties of the 2009 Fort Hood mass shooting and related tragedies eligible for the Purple Heart.
Pentagon officials have remained steadfast against any such proposal, in part because of the benefits and combat classifications that might confer.
But Fletcher said families who lose a servicemember to a training accident, or job-related illness, or to a shocking on-base crime deserve some acknowledgement and gratitude from the armed forces.
“When our son was killed, we got some officers at our door, but then that was it,” he said.
“God bless those people getting (the new medal). I think they deserve to be recognized in some way. But those who die in service deserve it too.”
Fletcher’s family did receive a “Blue Star Award” from local government officials three years after his son’s death, an act he said was moving and therapeutic for him and his wife. He wants to see a similar honor enacted on a national level.
“When we received our award, we felt healed, we felt like someone had recognized our loss,” he said. “Someone had recognized that a gift was given in service of the county.”
“But we know there are still a lot of other military families still feeling that pain.”
email@example.com Twitter: @LeoShane