Friday, October 7, 2011

Equal Sacrifice, Equal Honor

On Thursday, October 6, ROA submitted testimony to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs’ Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, which held a hearing  on “Arlington National Cemetery:  An Update on Reform and Progress.”  ROA voiced its concerns about burial eligibility for National Guard and Reservists members having burial benefit parity to Active Duty at the National Cemetery.   ROA again highlighted that “gray-area” retirees, those who retired from the National Guard or Reserve, but are under the age of 60, are currently ineligible for burial at Arlington.  Given the service and dedication of the Guard and Reserve in post-9/11 operations, ROA believes regulations for burial eligibility at Arlington National Cemetery should be revisited and revised to allow the Reserve Component service members the honor of being buried alongside their brothers and sisters-in-arms. Currently, the only eligible Reservists are those killed in action, received a Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Air Force Cross, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star or higher.

Over 800,000 National Guard and Reserve service members have been activated since post-9/11. These members put their civilian careers on hold, assume risks in training for their missions, and share the same risks as their counterparts in the Active Components on the battlefield. It is ironic that they no longer become eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery upon returning to Selective Reserve status. In addition, those who retired with 20 years of satisfactory federal service are not eligible either. National Guard and Reserve members must be retired in pay to be burial eligible.

Given these conditions, ROA supports in-ground burial eligibility for:
  • Any Reserve Component member who has served on active duty honorably in a combat or hazardous duty zone, but who has not been killed in the line of duty.
  • National Guard and Reservists who are killed in the line of duty whether on Active Duty for Training (ADT), Active Duty for Special Work (ADSW) for less than 30 days, or Individual Duty Training (IDT).
  • Deceased gray-area retirees, if entitled to retirement pay under Title 10.
  • Spouses, surviving spouses, or dependent children of any group of eligible National Guard and Reserve members.
Concerns over allocating the remaining burial capacity, which excludes the National Guard and Reserve members, are not as urgent with the recent acquirement of land at Arlington National Cemetery. Given this condition, care must be taken to recognize the contributions and sacrifices of the National Guard and Reserve members who are performing the same missions as their counterparts. These men and women should be allowed the same eligibility at the time of their death.

1 comment:

PAG said...

Thank you for pursuing this. My husband, a retired Coast Guard Reserve Captain, who graduated from the Coast Guard Academy, served 9 years active duty and then taught as civilian at the Academy for 20 years passed away last year at the age of 53. Despite dedicating his entire adult life to the Coast Guard as a cadet, active duty officer, reserve officer and civilian professor at the Academy he was denied burial at Arlington. This denial was akin to saying his service to this country meant nothing and devasted our family.