Father of Baton Rouge soldier killed in helicopter crash: ‘My son … earned his place in Arlington’ _lowres

Thomas Florich

A Louisiana Army National Guard soldier killed in a helicopter crash during a training exercise off the coast of Florida has been denied burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

The family of Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, 26, of Baton Rouge, were told that he was not eligible for burial because he was not on active duty at the time of his death. However, Arlington National Cemetery officials said Tuesday Florich could still be cremated and inurned at the cemetery.

The cemetery has sections called the Columbarium and the Niche Wall where the urn can be placed, cemetery officials said.

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Florich’s father, Stephen Florich, said he will keep fighting for a burial at the cemetery.

“I think we have an entrenched bureaucracy … that flies in the face of common sense,” he said Tuesday.

“My son … earned his place in Arlington.”

On the Louisiana House floor Tuesday afternoon, state Rep. James Armes, D-Leesville, urged state lawmakers to get the Louisiana Congressional delegation involved in the effort to get an Arlington burial approved for Florich.

“He performed his duties and served his country and should be allowed to be buried in Arlington,” he told the chamber. “Please contact your congressmen, your senators and ask them to send a letter to the Secretary of the Army.”

The Louisiana National Guard Black Hawk helicopter crashed off the coast of Florida March 10 during a training exercise with Florich, three other Louisiana guardsmen and seven Marines aboard. All of those on board were killed.