Louisiana Guardsman denied burial at Arlington National Cemetery

Louisiana Guardsman denied burial at Arlington; leaders ask Army for exception

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The family of a Louisiana National Guardsman killed in the chopper crash near Pensacola Beach in March has lost its fight to have him buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The US Army denied burial at Arlington for Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, 26, of Baton Rouge, because he wasn't on active duty, even though he gave his life during the training exercise.

Florich was a flight mechanic aboard a Blackhawk helicopter that went down in dense fog, killing 11 servicemen.

Congressman Charles Boustany, R-Louisiana, asked for an exception because Florich was supporting active duty Marines when he was killed.

However, the exception was also denied. The US Army released the following statement regarding its decision:

"As the nation's premiere military cemetery, Arlington National Cemetery has strict eligibility criteria both for interment and interment. This is to ensure that, given the cemetery's limited space, an otherwise eligible veteran or service member will not be displaced. Exceptions to the strict eligibility criteria are rarely approved when the request is for a new grave. Staff Sgt. Florich's death was tragic, and a deep loss to his family, the Army and our nation. His record of service makes him eligible for interment, 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 family's request for an exception to policy was thoroughly reviewed in accordance with established protocols. The Army National Military Cemeteries Executive Director ?and the Arlington National Cemetery Advisory Group unanimously agreed that the circumstances, while tragic, did not warrant displacing an otherwise eligible service member or veteran."

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