Arlington exemption requested for soldier killed in helicopter crash
BATON ROUGE - Family members of a Baton Rouge National Guard soldier killed in a training accident said he has been denied burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
The family of 26-year-old Staff Sergeant Thomas Florich said the cemetery told them he could not be buried there because he was not on active duty at the time of the March 10 helicopter crash which killed him and ten others. The cemetery said his remains could be cremated and placed there, but burial was reserved for members who died while on active duty.
In an interview with Fox & Friends, his father Stephen Florich promised he would not stop fighting for a proper burial at Arlington.
"I think my son was very active on that aircraft," said Florich. "My son was in uniform, my son was serving in the capacity as a crew chief and a door gunner and in adverse weather conditions he accepted a mission to train people for combat in the future."
Multiple Louisiana lawmakers called Tuesday for the cemetery to make an exception in Florich's case. Senator David Vitter sent a letter requesting such an exemption to the Department of Defense, noting Florich's unit was on alert to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan at the time and that President Bill Clinton granted a similar exemption in 1997 for a pilot killed in a training exercise.
The Black Hawk helicopter, which crashed on March 10, was carrying Florich, three other Louisiana National Guard members and seven Marines based out of Camp Lejeune when it went down in foggy conditions. The National Guard said Florich served during Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon spill.