Sunday, March 31, 2013

Columnist Wants to Cut Military Funeral Benefit

Next to the guy that posted the Cesar Chavez on Google today, the next most unpopular guy in America right now might be St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan.

Mr. McClellan reports that his inbox is overflowing with people who "want to get rid" of him after he wrote two columns on doing away with military funeral honors for all veterans except those who were actually killed in combat:
But what about the guy who spends a couple of years in the military and then gets on with his life? Bear in mind that most veterans did nothing heroic. They served, and that’s laudable, but it hardly seems necessary to provide them all with military honors after they have died.
McClellan suggests that the free space and headstone in a national cemetery ought to be sufficient.

Tom Blumer at Newsbusters asks:
Well, what about those who incurred serious service-connected disabilities as a result of their "non-heroic" service? (The level of disability claims has from all appearances gotten completely out of control, but that's a separate topic. I'm discussing veterans with legitimate and provable physical and mental injuries resulting from their service.)

Indeed, by Mr. McClellan's theory, those people would not eventually be entitled to a funeral with military honors either.

McClellan's suggestion is that local service organizations pick up the tab:
Why not let the veterans organizations provide military honors at the funerals of their members? If a person gets out of the Marine Corps and wants to stay connected, he can join the Marine Corps League. I’m sure the 101st Airborne has an association. In a more general vein, we have the American Legion and the VFW.
In other words, if you want a military funeral you would have to join a service organization.  Service organizations certainly do a lot for our vets.  The American Legion post we belong to raises money for the troops and sends boxes of necessities to those who are deployed; the members participate in Veterans Day ceremonies, Memorial Day ceremonies, members volunteer their time to visit vets in nursing homes, and countless other efforts.  I guess adding funeral honor detail wouldn't be that much of a step and many would do it voluntarily, but that's not the point.

The sequester has indeed forced many painful budget cuts for all of us but it seems to me if the taxpayers can still afford to pay security detail for Obama's jaunts to the golf course then in all likelihood the taxpayer won't begrudge a veteran a military funeral.  Logic like McClellan's is the kind that suggests we cut tuition assistance to vets or assistance to homeless vets.  Oh, wait...

In his follow up column, McClellan points out that after getting out of the service he availed himself of the GI bill and now considers his country's debt to him square.  That, of course, is not an option our vets will have now, is it?

Only to Bill McClellan, perhaps, would a tour in Vietnam sound like a vacation; in writing about a friend that got drafted, he explains...:
He ended up in Vietnam. He was a little cog in the big wheel. He sorted mail. Honorable, but not heroic. He had an apartment in Saigon. The bar girls were attractive and friendly; the dope was plentiful and cheap. It was the best year of his life. 
If he were to get full military honors at his funeral, I don’t know what the bugler should play. Maybe something from Jimi Hendrix. 
I am not demeaning my friend’s service. I come from a long line of non-heroes. My dad was at Guadalcanal. He ran the largest still on the island. When he died, I did not choose to have a military funeral. I bought a bottle of very good whiskey.

I guess we all come from different perspectives, and I thank Mr. McClellan for his service, but for my part I don't begrudge any vet military honors at his funeral whether he served 2 years or twenty.  McClellan ties all this to the idea of heroism and to me that misses the point.

The Old Jarhead:
To measure whether an American citizen is a “hero” or not because of his combat experiences is bordering on lunacy. By serving our country, without running off to Canada, puts us in the precarious position of becoming a “hero” IF we are called to defend our country or any people in any country. I never expected to spend time inVietnam, but I was there anyway and I could have been a “hero” by McClellans’ standards. But I do not believe that we joined the military just so that we could be “heroes.’

Most vets, even those on Guadalcanal or Iwo Jima or anywhere else, seldom see themselves as heroes.  They will tell you they were just doing their job. Most Medal of Honor recipients, for example, always say, "I was just doing my job."  They don't see themselves as heroes.

Apparently, neither does Bill McClellan.

By the way, consider making a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project.  It's a great organization and if the VA takes Mr. McClellan's advice, WWP might really need your donation.  They don't care how many years you served or if you came back alive in order to give aid.

(H/T:  The Old Jarhead)


Jayhawk said...

I did not join the Navy for any such abstruse reasons as "serving my country" or "defending freedom," I joined so that I could get some nifty medals and a fancy funeral.

When my wife asked about my wishes I told her my preference would be to be buried with my shipmates in a national cemetery, but that her convenience and comfort should dictate what is done. I won't care. I will be somewhere else, somewhere where anger and resetment do not exist.

Funerals are not about the dead, they are about those who are left behind. I would be more sympathetic if you were talking about the families of the veterans and not about the veterans themselves.

When my father was buried at Arlington the ceremony was comforting to my mother and us kids. It was important to know that his 43 years of service had mattered so, yes, the burial should be preserved. But it should be preserved as a comfort to the families of those who have served, a point which both the columnist and you seem to miss.

The columnist comes close to making a point, in that for veterans who served short term and not in combat, the military is unlikely to mean much to the family, and the military ritual is not as likely to be of as much coimfort to the family. The loss of the burial service might not be as great in such case.

Red said...

I would not want a full military funeral. Save it for someone who truly served and in my eyes that is someone who invested more years, and possibly saw some combat. I was a land-locked squid for two years and while I served well enough I did not make a career out of the military nor did I spend time abroad or in combat.
Regarding this guy Bill: This is a hard subject to bring up without sounding like a jerk. I think people need to consider more what a person is trying to say versus getting all bent out of shape. I support our vets and before considering cutting anything military I would first consider cutting Congressional and Administrative benefits first. No one needs to fly on a private tax-payer funded jet for every event do they? And those with security details that are anti-second amendment might want to walk their talk too.