American vets right across this nation are outraged at JFK Jr., his
wife and sister-in-law receiving U.S. naval burial services at sea.
From what I’ve heard about JFK Jr. — a guy who never used an
accident of birth as an excuse to cut the line and always quietly did
the right thing for those less fortunate — he’d be the first to sound
off that he did not deserve a burial with military honors.
The Department of Veterans Affairs projects that 560,900 vets will
die this year alone. Many of these heroes aren’t getting either a
timely or an appropriate burial. Yet JFK Jr., his wife and
sister-in-law were interred in one day with military honors.
“At Portsmouth, the waiting time to be buried at sea is six months,”
says a Navy chief. “We have 128 dead sailors now waiting for their
honors. I can’t square how Kennedy, who never served, got special
privileges. It’s a national disgrace.”
Because of the heavy burial demands, there’s a backlog of 500 sailors
waiting to be buried at sea, and the waiting time for interment at major
military cemeteries such as Arlington can be up to three weeks.
Vets buried at smaller cemeteries don’t have the waiting time, but
most don’t receive full military honors either. In many cases, all that
a grateful nation provides is a one-man flag detail and a taped
recording of “Taps.”
JFK Jr., meanwhile, got a U.S. warship, a naval band and three Navy
chaplains. The cost for this special treatment was half a million
bucks, picked up by the taxpayers.
The military services that provide the burial details for our vets –
firing squads, chaplains and musicians from active and reserve units –
say they’re over-stretched and don’t have the money or resources to
handle the work load.
Retired Army Maj. R.M. Peterson says of the Kennedy burial, “My
Father, Father-in-law and I gave 72 years of service to this country …
the ‘Cult of Personality’ rules, and government serves the powerful, not
those who have served their country.”
Congress must stop this abuse of power by the connected, like Sen.
Edward Kennedy, who can pick up a phone and ask Secretary of Defense
William Cohen to arrange for family members to be buried at sea, and
snap, it’s done.
If Democrat Kennedy and Republican Cohen had listened to the advice
of this country’s warriors instead of their eager, can-do brass, they’d
have understood the sacredness of a military burial and why they
shouldn’t be for sale. They’d have gotten the word that military
burials are for those who’ve earned them, in most cases earned them the
hard way by taking enormous risks and undergoing hardships that the
likes of Kennedy and Cohen will never know.
I’d hoped this kind of abuse had been put to rest when former
ambassador Larry Lawrence was disinterred from Arlington National
Cemetery. After faking WWII service, he bought his way into those
hallowed grounds with megabuck political contributions. But out he went
Not only was Cohen wrong, so was the Chief of Naval Operations Adm.
Jay Johnson and every Naval officer in the chain of command, right down
to the skipper of the U.S.S. Briscoe. Had any of these officers stood
tall and said, “Burying three civilians aboard a naval ship with
military honors is wrong,” Kennedy, his bride and sister-in-law would
more than likely have been buried at sea from a Kennedy yacht, which I
suspect that JFK Jr. probably would have preferred.
This type of going-along-to-get-along by the brass is not only bad
for morale, it’s the same sort of behavior that, if allowed to go
unchecked, will continue to contaminate and destroy our officer corps.
In Vietnam, for example, all of the generals went along with Gen.
William Westmoreland’s dumb strategy even though they openly discussed
how flawed it was. More recently in Somalia, Gen. Thomas Montgomery
allowed combat operations to be conducted without armor even though he
knew tanks were needed to protect his soldiers.
The failure of senior leaders to do the hard “right” over the easy
“wrong” will continue until Congress slaps the guilty in the chops. I
suggest they start now by censuring Cohen and Adm. Johnson — an act
that would return moral integrity to our officer corps faster than you
could say “Profiles in Courage.”