I recently learned that the application for interment into Arlington National Cemetery on behalf of Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich was denied based on the determination that he does not meet the requirements for burial in the cemetery. As a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, I am deeply disturbed by this decision and have submitted a letter to Arlington asking that they allow an exception to the policy and overturn the denial.

Arlington National Cemetery does allow for exceptions to burial policies when certain criteria are met, such as when the decedent’s specific military service (contributions and acts) directly and substantially benefited the U.S. military and when the decedent’s service demonstrates the manner and level of sacrifice or heroism typical of military service. I fully believe that Florich’s service in the Louisiana National Guard and the circumstances of his death meet these criteria.

Florich was killed while serving as a member of the Louisiana National Guard during a training exercise that included his fellow guardsmen, as well as members of the Marine Corps. As with all forms of military training, the exercises would serve to hone the skills of service members to ensure their ability to defend our nation, a lesson that benefits all branches of the military.

Regardless of his training status, he was serving his country and in the line of duty at the moment of his passing.

The sacrifice of one’s life in service to his nation should be more than enough to allow burial at Arlington National Cemetery. If it does not, then I believe Arlington should strongly reconsider the purpose of their guidelines and whether they truly serve to honor our fallen heroes.

I urge our entire Louisiana delegation to stand in solidarity and use every resource available to them to influence the powers that be to honor Florich’s life, death and honorable military service by granting an exception to policy by allowing him to be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

David LaCerte

secretary, Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs

Baton Rouge