A Gold Star Mother's thoughts on inviting the media to military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery
If it's from a Gold Star Mother, it's on-topic. [Read with care; it's deep. Entire text of the comment posted to the July 10 Washington Post story.]
When I was notified my only child was killed in Iraq on 5.30.2004, I requested a photograph of his body being treated with dignity and respect as he arrived at Dover AFB, the mortuary for the military. I was repeatedly denied my request that week because it was “against Army regulations” and “it is to protect the privacy of the families” - apparently without regard to a family’s specific request.OYE Comment:
Additionally, should a family wish to meet their loved one’s remains as they make the final journey home, the Department of Defense strongly discourages family members from coming to Dover to watch the caskets of the dead unload. "It's a tarmac, not a parade ground."
When I was planning my son’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery, I cannot remember if I was asked about media coverage, but at least one reporter from the Washington Post was present. While Mr. Markon’s report was not totally accurate, it provided a fair representation of the service. I welcomed the presence of the media, in part, because I wanted to remember the day.
America should be privileged to witness the ceremony and dignity of a military funeral. America should be required to witness and experience a family’s mournful loss as they bury their loved one, whose years on this earth were too few. America should be allowed to mourn, if only briefly, as they bear witness to the human cost of war. America owes at least that much respect for those who died while serving their country, while so few others serve.
It seems that Ms. Gray was making an attempt to honor the wishes of the family, something that a family may not be able to stand up for during this difficult time and I applaud her efforts. Families going through the casualty process are extremely fragile and need more professionals at Arlington National Cemetery like Ms. Gray to be their advocate.
After more than 7 years of war and 4662 US casualties from Iraq & Afghanistan, one would have hoped for more transparency from an administration responsible for the carnage. I have little hope that the wishes of Gold Star families will ever be a priority during this presidency. January 2009 cannot come too soon for this Gold Star Mother.
7/11/2008 5:21:32 AM
Please read the Washington Post story about 1LT Kenneth Michael Ballard, U.S. Army, age 26, of Mountain View, California (above), killed in a firefight in Najaf, Iraq, as indicated by his mother, Karen Meredith, whom we assume is the "Gold Star Mom" who posted the comment. [Click this link for his memorial website.]
We thank her for sharing her thoughts with us as we honor his service and sacrifice and mourn his loss. With deepest respect from Operation Yellow Elephant.
Update 1: Here's what Ken's Mom wrote on her blog, a Gold Star Mother Speaks Out, about her visit to Section 60 on Memorial Day 2008. We were there too.
Update 2: The Washington Post reports that Army Secretary Pete Geren has asked for an internal review.