Today saw an event of monumental proportions in American history, yet most media outlets ignored the story! This is far more important than that our new president happens to be african-american, that the daughter of John F. Kennedy removed her name from consideration as replacement for, now Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton as Senator, or even that proposed Secretary of Treasury, Tim Geitner, is a tax-evader.
Today, for the first time, an army enlisted person, NOT an officer, received a Full Military Funeral Honors funeral. Why is this so monumental? Until today, Full Military Funeral Honors were reserved exclusively for officers, regardless of the cause of death.
In an interview with NPR (National Public Radio), Army Sergeant First Class, SFC Robert Durbin explained why he raised the question to the Secretary of the Army, congressmen, and senators:
"Rank has nothing to do with honor," he says. "And my hypothetical example is that a second lieutenant can graduate officer candidate school. He could hypothetically die in a car accident and receive full honors at Arlington. Whereas an enlisted service member with 20 years in the Army could be killed in action over here (Iraq) or Afghanistan and receive a standard honors funeral. To me, that just doesn't pass the common sense test."
Today, Army Specialist SPC Joseph Hernandez was laid to rest with Full Military Funeral Honors. He was the first enlisted member (non-officer) to be awarded such honors. The funeral procession at Arlington National Cemetery included a horse-drawn caisson, a band, and a colors team (flag bearers) among others. Besides the widow, flags were presented to all members of SPC Hernandez's family, unlike a Standard Military Honors Funeral where a single flag is presented to the widow(er) or next of kin.
From now on, there will be equality within the ranks when the issue of "honor' is considered. While there are still differences among rank, as there are still stipulations for an enlisted person to qualify for the Full Military Honors Funeral,, a soldier's honor in service, their value, is no longer in question.