How to honor non-combat military deaths?
By Leo Shane III
Stars and Stripes
Published: March 1, 2013
WASHINGTON -- Jack Fletcher doesn’t have an objection to the new Distinguished Warfare Medal. He just thinks that his son, a soldier who died in the line of duty, deserves an award as well.
“There are a lot of troops and families who fall through the cracks,” he said. “It’s baffling to me that everyone who loses their life serving honorably in the military isn’t somehow honored.”
Fletcher’s son, Lt. Robert “Bart” Fletcher, was shot and killed by a fellow soldier during a confrontation over missing weapons at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2008. Because the attack was not combat-related, he was not eligible for the Purple Heart.
As Pentagon officials work to recognize the exemplary actions of servicemembers serving safely away from the battlefield, Fletcher and his supporters want military leaders to honor non-combat casualties who have sacrificed their lives in service.
“You feel slighted, because your son or daughter didn’t get any recognition,” the elder Fletcher said. “That’s extremely painful for a grieving family.”
Lawmakers have unsuccessfully wrestled with the issue in recent years, sparring over whether to make casualties of the 2009 Fort Hood mass shooting and related tragedies eligible for the Purple Heart.
Pentagon officials have remained steadfast against any such proposal, in part because of the benefits and combat classifications that might confer.
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