'These are brave men, true men'; Louisiana National Guard IDs aircrew killed in helicopter crash _lowres

Thomas Florich

A Louisiana National Guardsman who was initially denied then allowed burial at Arlington National Cemetery has inspired new legislation that would require the U.S. Army to change its requirements for burial at the site.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, on Tuesday introduced the Founding Legacies of Reserve Integral Combat-training Heroes Act, or FLORICH, named for Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, who was one of 11 servicemen killed in a March helicopter crash.

Florich’s family petitioned for his burial at Arlington, which was initially denied because he had been “on active duty for training only.” However, following an outcry from politicians, especially those from Louisiana, the Army reversed its decision, explaining that because the Marines aboard the helicopter were on active duty, Florich should be given the same burial rights.

At the same time, Secretary of the Army John McHugh ordered a review of the National Cemetery’s burial requirements.

In a news release, Graves said the FLORICH Act would allow a National Guard member burial at Arlington if he dies during a mission in which an active-duty service member also dies.

“We appreciate Secretary McHugh granting exception to Staff Sgt. Florich, but future military men and women should not have this impediment,” Graves said in his Wednesday statement. “There should be clear policy to afford the families of fallen soldiers the honor of Arlington National Cemetery burial without the uncertainty and delays caused by the Army exception procedure in certain cases.”

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Committee on Armed Services.