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Legion: Reserve flag honors for military

Featured in Legislative Center
Legion: Reserve flag honors for military
Congress is considering legislation that would allow civilians who are killed while working for the federal government to be honored with U.S. flags at their funerals – the same way servicemembers killed on active duty are honored. DoD photo

The American Legion is denouncing a bill the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on today allowing for payment of "expenses incident to the presentation of a (U.S.) flag" for civilians who are killed while working for the federal government.

The Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011 (H.R. 2061) was introduced May 31 by Rep. Bill Hanna of New York. Noting that 3,000 federal employees have died since 1993, Hanna said, "Like members of the armed services, civilian federal employees are often in harm's way. Ours is a grateful nation, one that values the sacrifices made in honor of this country. A life can never be repaid, but it can be honored."

Fang Wong, newly elected national commander of the Legion, said the bill is a misguided attempt to equate civil service with military service.

"Congress needs to think twice before acting on this hastily written bill," Wong said. "Civil service workers do not sign a pledge to defend America with their lives, they are not forced to serve in combat zones, and their work routines do not include engaging enemy forces overseas."

The bill's advocates and the Committee on Oversight and Governnment Reform noted that presentation of a U.S. flag "is an appropriate way to honor Federal employees' contributions to the American public. The Committee believes these individuals are no less deserving of our respect than members of our armed forces." They point to legislation passed in 1993, allowing for civilians working with the military to be afforded the same privilege.

"This bill leaves far too much to be determined by a few individuals," said Tim Tetz, Legislative director of The American Legion. "It allows agency heads to determine who may be eligible upon their deaths. It allows them to determine ‘next of kin.' It doesn't clearly identify associated costs, and it leaves far too much to be decided without any public feedback."

"We certainly respect the service and dedication of those who sign up for civil service, but these individuals pledge much less than our servicemembers and veterans," Wong said. "If federal employees die or are killed in service to America, they should be honored by a grateful nation. Just not in the same way as our military or veterans."

 

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edball40

September 16, 2011 - 10:27am

Having known foreign service employees in Iraq, little mention was made in the press with the hardships our federal employees made in support of our troops with boots on soil in Iraq. Kidnappings, torture, and eventual decapitation in some cases all because they were Americans! What better tribute can one earn than to lay down their lives for their friends? To have their coffin wrapped in Old Glory makes their contributions just as significant as if they were wearing this nations uniform. Commander, they've earned it! RMC(SW), USN, Ret.

rebeldawg1124

September 11, 2011 - 9:39pm

My grandfather and old man were US Civil Service workers for the Navy Dept. in the Philippines before WW2. They were captured and imprisoned in Santo Tomas for the entire war, being subjected to starvation, beri beri , tuberculosis, dengue fever, and constant threat of death from the guards. My old man was part of the resistance in the camp. Are the Legion saying that these men aren't worthy of a burial flag ??? BTW, my grandfather was killed by Japanese artillery fire 5 days after being liberated...

ncg61

September 11, 2011 - 7:48pm

Lets provide two examples of "non-military" personnel who gave their lives in defense of this country: U.S. Merchant Marine - WWII - 1,554 ships sunk - over 7,000 Merchant Marine Sailors KIA. Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) - WWII - 38 casualties (training accidents). Merchant Marine Sailors and the WASP are both considered "civilian" service. The WASPs (still civilians) were given "Veteran" status in 1977. Merchant Marine Sailors (still civilians) were given Veterans status in 1988. It took the WASPs and Merchant Marine Sailors many years of lobbying to get recognized as Veterans. Other groups eligible can be viewed at the VA's website. The point is, there is precedent for civilians being accorded recognition as Veterans. Why not receive the flag as well, if dying in the service of this country. It's really a version of bigotry, saying that only military personnel are worthy of the U.S. flag.

Noblemon

September 11, 2011 - 1:39pm

The awarding of flag honors for civilians will be just another dilution of honors and awards that our country bestows. How many times have we noticed flags at half-staff and wonder who died only to find that they were ordered lowered by governors/mayors for victims of a tragic crime or accident. When an honor becomes routine it is meaningless. P.S. Don't get me started on The National Anthem and military honors at sporting events.

James Lecomte

September 10, 2011 - 5:08pm

Bit by bit the honors that were reserved for those who put their lives on the line for our country are being eroded by those who were never brave enough to serve. If you want the honors upon death, raise your hand and enter military service. If you choose not to, well, that says it all. Keep the flag for the military!

ncg61

September 10, 2011 - 9:31pm

"I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God. 5 U.S.C. §3331" I support giving the flag to whomever dies while serving this country, whether civilian or military. There are countless times when Department of Defense, Army, Air Force, Navy, State, Homeland Security, Justice, CIA, etc., employees have given their life in the name of the USA. There is no reason not to give a flag to these individuals. State & local government employees, who take an oath, who lose their lives in the name of this of the USA should as well. They are no less patriotic than those in the U.S. military. The Legion is wrong.

civilian patriot

September 9, 2011 - 9:44pm

right on!

civilian patriot

September 9, 2011 - 9:43pm

This just becomes more elite every time I check the postings. Arguing only for those who serve 20 years and retire to be honored with a flag? Really? My father in law served honorably in Vietnam - and he wasnt even a citizen yet, but he loved his new country, so he served his tours. Or arguing that civilians dont deserve it because their death is "by mistake" - would you argue that the firefighters and other first responders on 9/11 didn't know the dangers they faced and it was a big mistake? they served our country with great honor when war was declared upon us, what more can you ask for, and you would deny them a FLAG? I am disgusted by the poor attitude displayed by so many of these posts, and so very proud of the military members who see the importance in others and not just themselves (my deepest thanks to all of you).

tthomasdburns

September 9, 2011 - 11:26am

I disagree to an extent. There are "tech reps" that go into combat or dangerous situations with the troops, to support equipment vital to the operations. These people volunteer, very often because they see the need to support the equipment in support of the troops, where ever it is used. I feel that these people should receive the same honors as the troops in those cases where they surrender their lives along side of the military.

nestur_a

September 9, 2011 - 10:44am

And what next? Will you ask that civilians who are wounded or killed be awarded the purple heart? Get real

Germ

September 9, 2011 - 8:22am

Seriously ... We feel we are so special that only we deserve the American Flag?? How arrogant! Anyone that that takes the risk of working in harms way to meet the missions of this nation whether they wear a Uniform or not deserves this nations gratitude and if that includes the flag then so be it. We veterans do not own the flag!

civilian patriot

September 9, 2011 - 9:46pm

Your gratitude towawrd all who serve makes me proud

devildog47

September 9, 2011 - 4:22am

The flag honors are for those whom have raised their right hand and pledged to defend this country with their life.The civilians of this country want something for nothing and constantly whine and complain,you want the same honor as the fighting men and women of this nation,then go sign your name on the line to defend and uphold the safety of the USA.I`m sick and tired of the yahoos in Washington giving our nation away for a vote,remove the lobbyists out of D.C. and see how long they stay in office.Very few to none in office have ever been in the military and it`s obvious,how they want to cut the military and not their pay and benefits which is free.I served in Vietnam and fought harder for my benefits than in Vietnam.I`m quite sure other veterans have experienced the same problems with the VA system,and it`s a disgrace for combat veterans or for that matter all that have served Honorably to be stalemated for benefits.

roger ducharme

September 8, 2011 - 10:40pm

I agree, to allow the flag to used by civilian government employees will dilute it's meaning. There is no equality in the magnitude of sacrifice.The military death is one that was understood by the soldier, while the civilian, though trajik was accidental.

David McLeod

September 8, 2011 - 5:33pm

Gentlemen and Ladies I think the Flag should be reserved for the Military people, I spent over 20 in . If the Govt. Civilians want that right, they should join one of the military services and pick up the rifle and be prepared to die for this country like we were. I AM SURE THERE IS NO WAITING LINE AT THE RECRUITER'S OFFICE...

Paul L Ruiz

September 8, 2011 - 8:14am

National Commander; I hold Expeditionary and Service medals for both military and civilian federal civil service overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan; I raised my right hand , in both status' , to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, Foreign and Domestic, in the capacity I was in, Combatant and Noncombatant. Federal civil service employees aren't forced, but volunteer their services overseas on a year tour of duty, as part of the DOD Civilian Expeditionary workforce; I held the position as Transportation Officer, in charge of movement of Cargo throughout Afghanistan. I had no weapon, went out on military convoys, flew in military aircraft: fixed wing and rotor, throughout Afghanistan. As a civilian, I have been in multiple incidences involving IED attacks,. If it happened, that I was killed during my civilian tour of duty, for what the National Commander is asking for, I wouldn't have received a flag from my Country, for my service and sacrifice.

boucains

September 9, 2011 - 1:09am

Mr. Ruiz, First, let me thank you for your service to your country and for taking your time to bring your voice to the table. Whether real or on paper, there was one big difference between your tours of service. In one, you were expected to take the fight to the enemy and in the second you were expected to be protected by the military. There may also be a second difference - that of being able to quit your civilian job at will - but that is not clear to me from what you wrote. There may be a way to honor those who voluntarily risk their lives as civilians to be honored, but I do have to disagree with this particular bill as it is written. There are too many people who have been raised to think that they are just as important as anyone else, regardless of service or sacrifice for others. I feel that this bill is another step in diluting the level of respect that should be accorded to those who have taken the ultimate pledge.

Grampa Hart

September 7, 2011 - 9:41pm

As a past member of the Army and a Vietnam Veteran, I stand with the Legion in reserving the Honor of having a burial Flag for our Military Veterans. Russell F. Hart Post 150 Department of Maine

Old Retired Sailor

September 7, 2011 - 6:32pm

As a retired member of our Armed Forces, I stand with the Legion in reserving this honor for our active duty members and veterans. Michael McWatt Post 110 Department of Florida

Samuel L Chang

September 7, 2011 - 2:01pm

I agree that U.S. flags should be presented in honor of military and police -- those who protect us -- when their time comes. I think this photo says it all.

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