Monday, April 01, 2013

Speaking Out of Turn

When I joined the Navy, I did not do so for any abstruse reasons such as “serving my country” or “defending freedom,” I did it so that I could get awarded some nifty medals and receive a fancy funeral.

Some people just don’t get what military service is all about.

Relatives of a San Diego Marine killed in Iraq have been fighting for four years to get his Navy Cross upgraded to a Medal of Honor. I doubt very much that the fallen Marine really cares. He was not there for the purpose of pinning medals on his chest. He did not fall on that grenade because he wanted a specific medal. They dishonor him by making his action about a medal instead of about saving the lives of his brothers in arms.

I read a post by a conservative blogger today, expressing outrage over a suggestion that the military cease providing ceremonial funerals for service persons not killed in combat. Her outrage is for the veterans themselves, who she claims are owed the burial service regardless of where or how long they served. The fact that they volunteered for their country is enough, she says, that we owe them that final dignity.

When my wife asked a few years back I told her that my preference would be to be buried with my shipmates in a national cemetery, but that her comfort and convenience should prevail in determining what is done with my remains after I die. I won’t care, because I will be in a better place.

When my father was buried at Arlington the ceremony was, indeed, a comfort to my family. It was valuable to know that his 43 years of service to his country was honored and valued, and that his dedication to his nation was returned. Funerals are not for the dead, they are for those who are left behind, a point which that blogger missed.

The column in question was disrespectfully worded, his point was not well made and missed the mark, but there is perhaps a point to be made. For a person who served for a short time and far from combat the trappings of a military funeral may not have as much meaning to the family, and perhaps some thought might be given to reducing the degree of ceremony devoted to burial services for veterans based on length and type of service.

What I do know is that civilians need to quit declaiming that they know what veterans want and need. Let veterans speak for themselves, people, because you don’t know shit. And, yes, the first paragraph was sarcasm.

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