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All enlisted KIAs to get full Arlington honors
By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Courtesy of The Army Times
15 December 2008

Full military honors will be granted to all enlisted soldiers killed in action and slated for burial or inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery as of January 1, 2009, the Army secretary has decided.

In a December 12, 2008, memo obtained by Military Times and confirmed Monday by the Army, Army Secretary Pete Geren said that the policy will apply also to members of other services if requested and authorized, and that Army assets that currently support military funeral honors at Arlington will be made available for those funerals.

The Army secretary is the executive agent for all matters concerning Arlington, considered the nation’s most hallowed military cemetery.

Normally accorded only to officers, Medal of Honor recipients and enlisted members who reach the highest possible enlisted rank of E-9, full honors include an escort platoon, a colors team, a band and a horse-drawn caisson. These are rendered in addition to the military pallbearers, firing party, bugler and chaplain that are a part of standard honors, according to cemetery officials.

The Army said last month that a review of the policy was under way, but a spokesman said then that the Army was only considering changes in the rendering of honors at Army burials.

Under the new policy, eligible enlisted soldiers will be those who were killed as a result of:

•Any action against an enemy of the United States

•Any action with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the U.S. military is or has been engaged

•Action while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed combat against an opposing armed force in which the U.S. is not a belligerent party

•An act of any such enemy of opposing armed forces

•An act of any hostile foreign force

•An international terrorist attack against the U.S. or a foreign nation friendly to the U.S., recognized as such an attack by the Army secretary

•Military operations while serving outside the territory of the U.S. as part of a peacekeeping force

•Action by friendly fire — that is, nonenemy weapons fire while directly engaged in armed conflict, unless the soldier’s death was the result of the soldier’s willful misconduct.

Enlisted soldiers killed in a combat zone or hostile-fire area as the result of nonhostile actions not noted above will continue to receive standard military funeral honors at Arlington, the policy states.

“Arlington National Cemetery is an expression of our nation’s reverence for those who served her in uniform, many making the ultimate sacrifice,” Geren said in a subsequent statement. “Arlington and those honored there are part of our national heritage. This new policy provides a unified basis for all Army soldiers killed in action.”

In the memo, Geren directed the Army’s Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs to oversee publication of an implementation plan as of today.

The biggest obstacle to holding more full-honors funerals at Arlington, officials have said in the past, is the limited number of available assets. The services each provide their own Washington-based ceremonial troops for certain elements of Arlington funerals, such as pallbearer duty, but these troops are also on call to perform official functions other than funerals.

Arlington has only two of the Old Guard-run caisson units and can perform only eight of the stately funerals each day, Monday through Friday, officials say. Bands also are not always available.

It is not yet known who the first enlisted service member other than a Medal of Honor recipient to be buried with full honors under the new policy will be; Arlington has announced only one 2009 burial, that of an officer, Marine Corps Captain Warren A. Frank, on January 9, 2009.

As of Monday, 531 service members killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been buried, inurned or memorialized at Arlington, according to the cemetery’s Kaitlin Horst.



 16 January 2009:

Specialist Joseph Hernandez, who died January 9, 2009, in Afghanistan, will become the first junior enlisted soldier to receive full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Until January 1, 2009, this was only accorded to officers, Medal of Honor recipients and enlisted members who reach the highest possible enlisted rank of E-9.

Hernandez, 24, of Hammond, Indiana, was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Jaldak.

Two other soldiers, Major Brian Mescall, 33, of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and Sergeant Jason Parsons, 24, of Lenoir, North Carolina, were also killed.

The soldiers were with 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Hohenfels, Germany.

Hernandez’s service is scheduled for January 23, 2009, and his military honors will include band, casket team, bugler, escort platoon and a firing party.

“His family opted to proceed without the caisson, in order to schedule the earliest possible date,” Kaitlin Horst, spokesperson for Arlington National Cemetery, said in an e-mail message.

The decision to make full honors available to all enlisted soldiers was made in December by Army Secretary Pete Geren, who said the honors will also apply to members of other services if requested and authorized.

Army assets that currently support military funeral honors at Arlington, he said, will be made available for those funerals.

The Army secretary is the executive agent for all matters concerning Arlington, considered the nation’s most hallowed military cemetery.

Under the new funeral honors policy, eligible enlisted soldiers will be those who were killed as a result of:

• Any action against an enemy of the United States.

• Any action with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the U.S. military is or has been engaged.

• Action while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed combat against an opposing armed force in which the U.S. is not a belligerent party.

• An act of any such enemy of opposing armed forces.

• An act of any hostile foreign force.

• An international terrorist attack against the U.S. or a foreign nation friendly to the U.S., recognized as such an attack by the Army secretary.

• Military operations while serving outside the territory of the U.S. as part of a peacekeeping force.

• Action by friendly fire — that is, non-enemy weapons fire while directly engaged in armed conflict, unless the soldier’s death was the result of the soldier’s willful misconduct.

Enlisted soldiers killed in a combat zone or hostile-fire area as the result of non-hostile actions not noted above will continue to receive standard military funeral honors at Arlington, the policy states.

“Arlington National Cemetery is an expression of our nation’s reverence for those who served her in uniform, many making the ultimate sacrifice,” Geren said in a statement released following his memo. “Arlington and those honored there are part of our national heritage. This new policy provides a unified basis for all Army soldiers killed in action.”


Posted: 15 December 2008, Updated: 16 January 2009,Updated: 26 January 2009