Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Arlington National Cemetery quietly changed its policy on 'full military honors' for Medal of Honor heroes
Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members, veterans and their families. The hallowed ground is a symbol of national service, and a shrine to the sacrifices made by those in uniform.
In recent years, there's been a growing push to see a change in what funeral honors are rendered for some of the country's most distinguished heroes: Medal of Honor recipients and prisoners of war. As it turns out, the cemetery has already made some of those changes.
Earlier this week, lawmakers from both parties introduced legislation in the House and Senate to ensure that Medal of Honor recipients and prisoners of war receive full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, Stars and Stripes reports.
"Full military honors ceremonies remind us of the service and valor demonstrated by those who have defended, protected, and sacrificed for freedom and democracy," Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) said in a statement. A Navy veteran himself, Panetta introduced the legislation in the House on Feb. 6.
"This is a simple, but necessary fix that provides these selfless veterans with the honors they deserve," Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), a Navy SEAL veteran who co-sponsored the House bill, told Task & Purpose via email.
In the case of Medal of Honor recipients, Arlington National Cemetery currently offers "full military honors," though it's a relatively new development, having gone into effect on Jan. 11, 2019. The cemetery's official website was updated "within the last seven to ten days," to reflect the change, Barbara Lewandrowski, the director of public affairs at Arlington National Cemetery told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
Every veteran interned at Arlington can receive military funeral honors which include a casket team, a firing party, a bugler, and the folding of and presentation of the American flag. Roughly 17 active duty service members are mobilized for the detail and provide services for as many as 22 funerals a day.
Funeral honors with an escort — what's typically referred to as "full military honors" and what lawmakers are calling for in the case of Medal of Honor recipients and POWs — involves all the same elements as the above, in addition to an escort, a military band, and the option of a horse-drawn caisson, or carriage. The detail involves as many as 70 personnel, and due to the manpower requirements, can only be performed eight times a day. Previously, those honors were reserved for senior enlisted (E-9), chief warrant officers (CW-4, CW-5) field grade officers (O-4) and above, and any service member, regardless of rank, who was killed in action.
Now, Medal of Honor recipients are eligible for those full honors.
The change purportedly came at the behest of Army Secretary Mark Esper, following recommendations from Arlington National Cemetery's advisory committee on how best to reduce wait times — which can range from two weeks to a month for military funeral honors, or eight to nine months for funeral honors with an escort.
"Secretary of the Army [Mark Esper] said 'if we're going to make a modification to who receives honors, one of the modifications I recommend, is that Medal of Honor recipients will receive full honors with escort,'" Lewandroski said of a report from Arlington's advisory committee submitted in July 2018.
A spokesman for the Secretary of the Army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The policy change seems to have been quietly put in place. Given that it was changed with little fanfare, it makes sense that a pair of bills are calling for something that's already been done, at least partially.
"Today, we are providing military funeral honors with military funeral escort to Medal of Honor recipients," Army Maj. Shannon Way, a strategic planner at Arlington, told Task & Purpose. Speaking of the Full Military Honors Act of 2019, Way said "this is something that has been out there before, from the standpoint of legislation, and it doesn't surprise me that it still looks like it did, say, six months to a year ago."
In fact, the most recent bills are similar to last year's attempt to do the same thing, notes Stars and Stripes.
The recent change for Medal of Honor recipients may make the proposed bills a little redundant, though if they pass, the policy would become permanent, and prisoners of war would be eligible for full military honors.
As well-meaning as that may be, it could bring additional challenges.
Under the cemetery's current policy, prisoners of war could expect to wait two weeks to a month for military funeral honors — which include a firing party, bugler, casket team, and flag presentation, Lewandrowski said. "Now, if POWs got put into the full honors with escort queue and we only do eight of those a day, because we don't have the resources to do any more than eight a day, those POWs could wait eight or nine months to be buried, and that would be short."
The delay, and the impact it could have on families, is one of the reasons Arlington has held off on changing the policy for prisoners of war.
"That also was part of that decision in order for that large number of prisoners of war to be buried and for families to come to closure," Lewandrowski said. "That was another reason they chose not to have POWs in that longer waiting queue."
Update:This story was updated to include additional information from Arlington National Cemetery on when the policy was changed to provide "full military honors" to Medal of Honor recipients.
WATCH NEXT: Colorado Guard Visits Extortion 17 Memorial at Arlington Cemetery
An Austrian soldier was apparently killed by two military working dogs that he was charged with feeding, the Austrian Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday.
She's photographed every major war of the last 20 years. Marine Corps boot camp was something else entirely
Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario has seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya, and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.
Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.
The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.
Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead
"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
Federal court judge Reggie Walton in Washington D.C. has ruled Hoda Muthana, a young woman who left her family in Hoover, Alabama, to join ISIS, is not a U.S. citizen, her attorneys told AL.com Thursday.
The ruling means the government does not recognize her a citizen of the United States, even though she was born in the U.S.
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Marine Corps could train as many as eight co-ed companies at boot camp each year, and the general overseeing the effort is hitting back against those complaining that the move is lowering training standards.
"Get over it," Maj. Gen. William Mullen, the head of Training and Education Command told Military.com on Thursday. "We're still making Marines like we used to. That has not changed."
Mullen, a career infantry officer who has led troops in combat — including in Fallujah, Iraq — said Marines have likely been complaining about falling standards since 1775.
"I'm assuming that the second Marine walking into Tun Tavern was like 'You know ... our standards have gone down. They're just not the same as it they used to be,'" Mullen said, referring to the service's famous birthplace. "That has always been going on in the history of the Marine Corps."