On March 11th under a fog advisory approximately 50 miles off of Pensacola in the panhandle of Florida, a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter went down in the Gulf of Mexico.
The helicopter was flying for an Army National Guard training mission. Eleven soldiers total, seven of which were U.S. Marines, were killed in this crash.
The family of one of the soldiers killed on the training mission, Staff Sergeant Thomas Florich who was a flight mechanic on the helicopter, applied for their son to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Much to the family’s surprise, they received a letter telling them he was being denied burial at Arlington due to his in eligibility. However, they were told their son qualified for military honors and inurnment.
Sgt. Andrew Seif, one of the Marines involved in the helicopter crash, was buried in Arlington in April.
What’s the difference between two soldiers who were involved in the same helicopter crash? Sgt. Andrew Seif was on active duty and a part of the Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) as were the other Marines, and Staff Sergeant Thomas Florich was not on active duty at the time of the crash.
Staff Sergeant Florich’s family is not pleased with this response from Arlington, and from the spokespeople of the U.S. Army and Louisiana National Guard. Colonel Pete Schneider shared that the family requested the denial to be appealed and an exemption of policy be filed. This would require Secretary of the Army John McHugh to make an exception and waive the eligibility rules in this case.
Staff Sgt. Florich was a guard member for eight years, but never had been deployed overseas. He was 26 years old at the time of his death, he leaves a wife who is currently seven months pregnant.