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Honor Guard
January 23, 2003 5:38 AM   Subscribe

A military honor guardsman has been fired for saying God bless you, while he presented a folded American flag to the family of a deceased veteran, during the burial service. By way of obscurestore.
posted by Beholder (38 comments total)

 
He was fired for disobeying his boss' orders. He'd been warned numerous times. He knew his boss didn't want him saying the blessing, because his boss had told him this, explicitly, on several occasions. Where's the controversy?
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:45 AM on January 23, 2003


Ok, I'm atheist and even I got pissed off at this. What the hell man?? This guy did nothing wrong, dumb ass bureaucracy.
posted by CrazyJub at 5:45 AM on January 23, 2003


Immagine if the guy had said 'may Allah watch over you'.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:46 AM on January 23, 2003


on Oct. 16 Iven Dumas, the cemetery's honor guard coordinator, ordered him to stop the blessings....Cubbage said he reluctantly stopped saying the blessing - until Oct. 31....He said Dumas called him into the office and demanded an explanation. He said he explained that a family friend had assured him they would welcome the blessing, but Dumas - citing Cubbage's "disregard for stated policy" - fired him that day.

That's pretty much everything you need to know about this case. He was ordered to stop saying the blessing, directly, by a supervisor. He ignored the order, and he got fired. For a military man, this shouldn't come as a surprise. He disregarded a direct order (A direct order from a funeral coordinator, but a superior nonetheless), and he should be well aware of the possible consequences.

Please don't try and say that this is a case of discrimination against Christians. It's not. The honor guardsmen are allowed to bless the family if the blessing is requested. That seems reasonable given that blessing people in the name of "God" might very well offend Jews and Muslim families, not to mention Hindus, athiests and other groups (despite Mr. Cubbage's belief that Jews and Muslims shouldn't have a problem with it).
posted by thewittyname at 5:48 AM on January 23, 2003


so, who sneezed?
posted by quonsar at 5:50 AM on January 23, 2003


He disobeyed a superior officer, the military isn't too keen on that, so it isn't a case of discrimination based on religion. Still, as an atheist I think that the lengths which the government goes to at times to separate itself from religion is inane. For something like this there should be a protocol, and from the pamphlet it looks like there was. If the family, the actual people mourning the loss of a loved one want a blessing then they should be able to receive one. If the person being buried was a Christian than a Christian blessing should be acceptable. If they were Muslim than a Muslim blessing should be acceptable and so on.

If the government comes out and says it's going to enforce Biblical law than I have a problem. That's not what the government is for and that's what separation of church and state should mean.
posted by substrate at 6:19 AM on January 23, 2003


Firing does seem a bit extreme...but allow me to say the following as a fundamentalist Christian:

The Bible teaches that followers of Jesus Christ are supposed to respect and obey those in authority over us as long as they don't ask us to violate the authority of God. If the honor guardsman felt such a strong need to bless the families, he should've contacted them on his own time.

Oh, since I'm on my own time: God bless them...and you.
posted by agentfresh at 6:23 AM on January 23, 2003


there is no god
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:30 AM on January 23, 2003


He was fired for not following the protocol, but there might be a valid question of wether the cemetery was correctly following the protocol. From the pamphlet:

"If the next of kin has expressed a religious preference or belief," the instructions continue, "add: 'God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America.' "

What's the definition of expressing a religious preference in this case? Supposedly he only said the blessing if the family had a chapel service or other religious memorial (or a Jesus fish on the car), but is there a distinction between "expressing" a preference and "demonstrating" one?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:31 AM on January 23, 2003


Well, I, for one, am sick and tired of all the fish running around screaming about needing water to survive. God help them if they don't get any. Let them flounder.
posted by PigAlien at 6:41 AM on January 23, 2003


Meanwhile, we have the new "faith based" social policies. I wonder if there was a larger political agenda behind this firing - such as inciting public anger over the already sagging firewall between religion and government?
posted by troutfishing at 6:46 AM on January 23, 2003


What does faith based social policies have to do with this particular incident? Trolling?
posted by ZupanGOD at 6:56 AM on January 23, 2003


I wonder if there was a larger political agenda behind this firing - such as inciting public anger over the already sagging firewall between religion and government?

A military helicopter crashed today. I wonder if they did that to make the Wellstone crash look more accidental?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:00 AM on January 23, 2003


Oh, since I'm on my own time: God bless them...and you.

First of all, I'd like to say hello to all the taxpayers, and screw you. And second of all, I'd like to take a little bit of our national network airtime to advocate that I be allowed to masturbate in public buildings.

-KITH
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:05 AM on January 23, 2003


I doubt there was a political agenda behind this, but I'm sure the 700 Club and their ilk will whip it up into "proof" that Christians are horribly persecuted by those mean secular humanist pinko PC lefties.
posted by JoanArkham at 7:07 AM on January 23, 2003


From the perspective of someone who had air force honor guardsman at her father's funeral, there is nothing they could have done or said wrong short of laughing or disco dancing through the eulogy. My father was a Korean War veteran and the flag receiving ceremony at his funeral was extremely moving and a very proud and poignant moment for me and my family. As the honor guardsman handed me the flag, there were tears in her eyes and her hands were shaking. She saw my father's photos, listened to his eulogy and learned about a man who was loved dearly by his family and friends. I took the flag from her hands and started to shake myself and it was at that moment that I said, "Thank you, thank you so much for remembering my Dad." My eyes filled with tears as someone played "Taps" and I collapsed in a folding metal chair clutching the flag and sobbing.

I'm not part of the Christian Right, not mind numbingly patriotic, not ultra-conservative, not pro-war, not pro-military or any of the other extremes. I'm just someone who lost her father a few years ago and who still keeps her father's flag and his dog tags out for display as a memorial. The service the air force honor guardsman did for my family and my father will never be forgotten. It was an extreme act of kindness in my eyes.

If the families never objected to the man saying "God Bless," why make an issue of it. I know it's not a logical argument and that military protocol should be followed, but must we as a society become so anti-everything "religious" that we sterilize every aspect of life.

Again, I am not religious. I was just so moved and healed by the flag giving ceremony and by the emotion shown by the honor guardsman. Imagine how difficult it would be to be in Patrick Cubbage's shoes and witness families mourning their loved ones day after day. I think all he was trying to do was offer some solace, show some compassion and express his humanity.
posted by VelvetHellvis at 7:30 AM on January 23, 2003


Couldn't he have just said "Bless you"?
posted by SweetIceT at 7:39 AM on January 23, 2003


That's pretty much everything you need to know about this case.

No this part is important also:

Cubbage insisted, however, that he was operating within the rules for honor guards. Opening a slender pamphlet that he said the cemetery gave him when he started, he turned to a page topped by the words Flag Presentation Protocol.
After Taps, it explains, the honor guard folds an American flag into a triangle, and a guardsman then steps before the appropriate family member.
Depending on the branch of service, the presenter next is to say such words as: "This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service," and then to hand the flag to the deceased's kin.
"If the next of kin has expressed a religious preference or belief," the instructions continue, "add: 'God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America.' "
"...I said it only if the family had a chapel service or had clergy at the grave."


Not only is this protocol, but he was only doing to a family that had expressed a religious preference.


Joan L. Edwards, affirmative-action officer for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, wrote to Dumas to clarify policy. Cubbage received a photocopy of the letter.
Government employees "must not engage in activities or expression that a reasonable observer would interpret as government endorsement ... of religion," she wrote.


This is just political correctness run amuck.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 7:43 AM on January 23, 2003


The issue is not that he said "God Bless You", it's that he said anything at all when ordered not to. If that had been on a battlefield, people could of died because he didn't shut up when ordered to.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:43 AM on January 23, 2003


This is just political correctness run amuck.

...aaand time! 18 posts!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:47 AM on January 23, 2003


If it's protocol, it's protocol. It's written down and everything. I'm amazed he was fired essentially for refusing to do his job incorrectly. I wonder what happened when he showed the manual to his boss, who sounds like a no-load with his head firmly inserted.

To borrow a phrase from my dad's (erstwhile greatest) generation, this is a hell of a note.
posted by alumshubby at 7:49 AM on January 23, 2003


It reminds me of that Kids in the Hall sketch where Bruce McCullough keeps saying "Ascertain".
posted by stifford at 8:04 AM on January 23, 2003


it's that he said anything at all when ordered not to

I do not question the right of the Lt. Col. to get rid of this man for not following orders, I agree completely.

The issue is why when it is protocol, for a family who is religious for the guardsman to do what protocol tells him to do and say 'God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America.'? Cubbage was not saying to every family, only family that he knew would appreciate those words. These words that are offering comfort to a grieving family, are hurting who?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:05 AM on January 23, 2003


S@L and alumshubby, you're missing something: the family at the disputed funeral did not express a religious preference to the cemetery. Cubbage learned that they were religious by chatting up a limo driver, then decided on his own to include the "God bless..." portion. He had specifically told not to say that unless the family had requested it, and he did it despite the fact no request had been made.
posted by JollyWanker at 8:05 AM on January 23, 2003


This isn't a Christian issue - this is a simple issue of following orders. He chose not to, on his benighted belief that he knew better. He was fired for it. End of story.

The fact that press time was spent reporting this self-righteous chucklehead is what makes this a "controversy."

As an aside, we've got letters from goverment agencies indicating that the government should in no way appear to endorse religion, then we have Bush's wonderful "faith-based initiatives". I don't think the problem is too much separation of church and state - I think there isn't enough of it, and what there is of it is damned inconsistent.

OK, have at.
posted by FormlessOne at 8:15 AM on January 23, 2003


This is just political correctness run amuck.

Bullshit. "Political correctness" is just a convenient buzzword wielded ad nauseum by some who cannot elucidate a cogent argument against what is almost always an ethical, principled policy.

Clergymen and clergywomen are there at the graveside to reassure the family that Santa Claus is there for them. It's their job. Representatives of our government should have no hand in such.

Those who want "public prayer" and "God back in the schools" and representatives of the collective spouting "God bless ya" at gravesides sure have an enormous insecurity about their own religious beliefs. One suspects a certain doubt in their own minds about the veracity and efficacy of their own belief system.

These words that are offering comfort to a grieving family, are hurting who?

Change the wording of the blessing slightly. A white supremacist dies, and at the burial a representative of our fucking government comforts the white supremacist family by saying, "The ghosts of Jefferson Davis and pale slaveowners everywhere will bless, watch, and weep over you always". A representative of our fucking government speaking those words of comfort to a grieving family hurts....who?

Sheesh....
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 8:21 AM on January 23, 2003


sounds to me like two stubborn people met head-on, got things out of perspective, and the one with more clout won. if there's anything in this story that reflects on the current status of america, it's not about the government separating church and state, or political correctness, but that some of you are a little up-tight. something like this would be unimaginable in s america because everyone's happy to bend rules and make exceptions to keep life easy...
(maybe i should add that i would dearly love these people to tense-up a little and am painfully envious of your up-tightedness)
posted by andrew cooke at 8:32 AM on January 23, 2003


Cubbage learned that they were religious by chatting up a limo driver

And by the Christian 'Fish' symbol on the back of their car. If the family is so brazen as to drive around displaying their religion, they surly would not mind him asking God to Bless them...

and f&m, Bullshit to you. Political Correctness is a situation where people can not pull their heads from their asses, and in this case have no understanding of the First Amendment...

As for 'change in the words slightly', that is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever heard.. you have even out done yourself this time. Comparing Religion to White Supremacy... sheesh...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:41 AM on January 23, 2003


If it's protocol, it's protocol. It's written down and everything. I'm amazed he was fired essentially for refusing to do his job incorrectly.

It may be that the superior officer has the authority to override a written protocol. If this is the case, then the honor guardsmen did do the job incorrectly. He disobeyed a direct order.

The question is, does the superior have that authority?
posted by moonbiter at 9:02 AM on January 23, 2003


A fish symbol on the car isn't the same thing as "the next of kin has expressed a religious preference or belief."
posted by tolkhan at 9:02 AM on January 23, 2003


And by the Christian 'Fish' symbol on the back of their car. If the family is so brazen as to drive around displaying their religion, they surly would not mind him asking God to Bless them...

Surely they wouldn't, Steve - but that's not the point. It isn't a question of whether the family minded, it's a question of whether family requested the additional phrases when the funeral was arranged. They did not make that request, in which case Cubbage had been given specific instructions not to use those words (many times, apparently). He chose to disregard those orders knowing he'd be fired if he did so and, big surprise, he was fired...
posted by JollyWanker at 9:22 AM on January 23, 2003


You are missing my point. I do not argue with him getting fired, his superior officer gave him an order and he disobeyed. No argument from me, every right to remove him. I question the Superior Officer's policy...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:33 AM on January 23, 2003


The issue is not that he said "God Bless You", it's that he said anything at all when ordered not to. If that had been on a battlefield, people could of died because he didn't shut up when ordered to.

Please note that it *wasn't* a battlefield. That is a lame excuse. However to follow your hyperbole, suppose it was a battle, and a superior officer commanded an action that was in blatant violation of the Gevena Convention, or other military code or law. (Rape, pillaging, summary execution, torture...) The reason that there are written protocols is so that soldiers can know when a command is out of line, and when following it would be wrong and/or harmful.

Also:

Iven Dumas, the cemetery's honor guard coordinator

The article makes no mention on Dumas' rank, even though other military personnel in the article are mentioned by rank. Could Dumas have been a civilian? I don't think this is really a case of a soldier disobeying an officer. (Cubbage seems to be retired, not active.)
posted by kayjay at 9:49 AM on January 23, 2003


f&m, you get the award for worst logic of the post, despite the fierce competition. Comparing "God bless you" to white supremacist blather is the kind of thing that gives arguing by analogy a bad name.

If you're going to "change the wording slightly," why not just change "God bless you" to "I hate Jews and black people." Why stop with your only slightly less ridiculous change?
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:13 AM on January 23, 2003


kayjay - you're trying to confuse the issue with a "criminal order", I'm not biting.

The boss repeatedly says "ignore the manual do it this way"
Employee ignores the boss and does not do what the boss told him to do.

Employee is fired.
posted by DBAPaul at 11:02 AM on January 23, 2003


Jesus fish
a little background: the fish is there because, in Greek, the initials of "Jesus Christ, the Son Of God, the Savior" compose the word "Ikhthus", i.e., Fish

and f&m, Bullshit to you. Political Correctness is a situation where people can not pull their heads from their asses...
As for 'change in the words slightly', that is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever heard

Always the gentleman, Steve, the MetaTalk thread about civility really had a nice effect on your manners
posted by matteo at 12:40 PM on January 23, 2003


This is ridiculous. How about asking the family whether they welcomed the blessing or not, since the rule was contingent upon the family's request? Were talking about a funeral, not a social security registration office.

(pssst...matteo, you skipped some ↑)

Bullshit.

our fucking government (1.)

our fucking government (2.)
posted by hama7 at 7:52 PM on January 23, 2003


Steve_at_Linnwood:

By my reading of the article, the supervisor's policy wasn't based on a "PC" mindset, but was designed to avoid a repeat of a negative event that had already happened; namely, whatever caused the other guardsmen to complain about Cubbage's behavior to his supervisor.

It seems to me that there are two possibilities:

1) Cubbage is a jerk, and royally ticked off his fellow guardsmen. So much so that they decided to "get him" by reporting his blessings as being offensive.

2) Cubbage said the blessing to some family, and it really, really bothered them. So much so that the other guardsmen felt they had to report it to their senior officer so that they wouldn't cause any other families trouble in the future.

While I'd like the latter to be true, I'm betting on the former. It seems to me that hunting out the limo driver, looking for a chance to disobey orders, is the sign of a jerk. Maybe just enough of a jerk to get done by his coworkers.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?
posted by Ptrin at 10:35 PM on January 23, 2003


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