National Guard Soldier Denied Burial at Arlington Cemetery, Army Suggests Cremation Instead

Posted: Jun 01, 2015 11:30 AM

A policy at Arlington National Cemetery has booted a former National Guard soldier from being laid to rest in the military burial site – and his family is outraged.

Former Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, who served in the Louisiana National Guard, was participating in a training activity in the Gulf of Mexico when the helicopter he was flying in tragically went down in a fog. He, along with the Marines on the aircraft, died in the crash.

His family had asked the Army for Florich to be buried in Arlington. However, because of the Army’s policy that only active duty servicemen be buried at the site, they have denied their request. Here was the Army’s explanation:

"Staff Sgt. Florich's death was tragic, and a deep loss to his family, the Army and our nation," the statement said. "His record of service makes him eligible for inurnment, so he may be forever enshrined in Arlington National Cemetery; however, since at the time of his death he was on active duty for training only, he therefore does not meet the well-established criteria for interment in Arlington National Cemetery."

The Army’s suggestion that Florich be cremated instead did not sit well with his father. Here’s what Former Green Beret Stephen Florich had to say about their treatment of his son on Fox and Friends this weekend:

“That is disturbing on a number of levels.”

He expanded on why his son deserves better:

“I think my son was very active on that aircraft,” Florich said. “My son was in uniform. My son was serving in the capacity as a crew chief and a door gunner. And in adverse weather conditions, he accepted a mission to train people for combat in the future. And in that, he gave all and lost his life.”

Florich’s widow, Meghan, is 7 months pregnant. It is her wish that her husband be buried at Arlington, according to Florich’s father.

The Louisiana National Guard has appealed the decision.

"My son in the service of his nation,” Florich said. “He volunteered during a time of war, and that space should be provided."

What do you think? Do you think Arlington is justified in its decision? Or was Staff Sgt. Florich unjustly denied a place in the cemetery?