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December 10, 2005 5:48 PM   Subscribe

"Dead heroes are supposed to come home with their coffins draped with the American flag -- greeted by a color guard. But in reality, many are arriving as freight on commercial airliners -- stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo."
posted by EarBucket (102 comments total)

 
What did they expect, to use the assigned seating from their round trip ticket?
posted by furtive at 5:51 PM on December 10, 2005


I don't care what your politics are, furtive, that was an asshole comment...
posted by HuronBob at 5:55 PM on December 10, 2005


What I'm saying is where else do you expect a large crate to be placed on an airplane?

I understand concerns of respect, but there are dead people being shipped by plane across the USA all the time in the same manner. You want to give them their own C5 Galaxy instead?
posted by furtive at 6:01 PM on December 10, 2005


I thought they had done away with bringing them back home.
Isn't there an Arlington #2 in Iraq yet?

Wouldn't that save some money? Just send a postcard to the parents.

(I know, I'm an asshole. I blame the war.)
posted by Balisong at 6:11 PM on December 10, 2005


They should be afforded the respect they deserve.

This isn't respect.
posted by bshort at 6:12 PM on December 10, 2005


They're brought 'home' to the us in the appropriate manner, from what I understand. It's once they get to our shores that the coffins are loaded as freight (this is what you would consider a body) and shipped commercial. It's highly impractical to send a military aircraft for each soldier as they are shipped all over the states. The body count isn't that high, yet.
posted by IronLizard at 6:16 PM on December 10, 2005


I strongly disagree with the war, and never much liked those who voluntarily participated in it, disadvantageous socioeconomic circumstances or otherwise. But I am much dismayed to hear that our government is so cheap and callous that even those who have died serving its leaders' selfish, greedy interests are being treated so shoddily.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 6:18 PM on December 10, 2005


IronLizard: in that case, Uncle Sam ought to be paying at least full airfare & accomodations for the immediate family to fly in to the appropriate military base to witness the respect (color guard, marching, salutes, whatever) that is paid their dearly deceased.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 6:20 PM on December 10, 2005


Here's what happened with a young soldier my funeral home buried this summer:

When he died, he was assigned a soldier to escort his body home. A flag was draped across his body. When he was placed into a shipping container, that flag was folded and placed inside the box with his body. (Sometimes the boxes are draped, but for this instance, it was inside with him.) The soldier who escorted his body sat beside the box as it flew on a cargo plane from Iraq to the United States.

When he got to the United States, the shipping container was placed on a regular domestic airplane, which flew from somewhere in the northeast to a stopover in Atlanta. When he got to Atlanta, he had missed his connecting flight, so the body would not reach our airport until the next day. The airline offered to put the soldier up for the night in a nice hotel in Atlanta. He declined their offer, and slept on the floor, in the hangar, next to the shipping container until the next morning. This was his choice.

When he landed in Baton Rouge, he was met by a convoy of over 75 police vehicles. (He served as a police officer before he went to Iraq). His body was placed into our funeral coach and was led, in procession, by those 75 vehicles, lights, sirens and all, to the dead soldier's hometown. The procession arrived at 10pm and was met by over 300 citizens, including his entire high school graduating class.

His escort turned the body over to us for the preparation for services. He had already been embalmed and dressed. He was placed into a casket and the next day he was placed into a local church for viewing. He was viewed for several hours, with a two person honor guard detail at his side the entire night. Every hour, his casket was draped with a new American Flag. These flags would be later given to his family.

The flag that had draped his body on the roadside where he died stayed with him in his casket.

After his funeral the next day, his body was escorted to Arlington National Cemetery, where he was buried three days later. At the end of the committal service, the escort who had stayed by his side presented to his mother the original flag that had been draped over her son when he died.
posted by ColdChef at 6:22 PM on December 10, 2005


What do you want to bet Haliburton got the no-bid contract to return all the "used up" equiptment?
posted by Balisong at 6:22 PM on December 10, 2005


Thanks, ColdChef. Simple, direct, and unexpectedly moving.
posted by verb at 6:27 PM on December 10, 2005


ColdChef writes 'The flag that had draped his body on the roadside where he died stayed with him in his casket. '


Very interesting comment ColdChef. The one part I don't understand is the quote above. Is this a common occurance or something unique to this particular case?
posted by smcniven at 6:31 PM on December 10, 2005


This comes from the same DoD where Mr. Rumsfeld used a signature machine to the letters to the fallen soldiers' families. This is the same DoD that couldn't get the proper armor for the troops in Iraq. I'm surprised they didn't got caught shipping those kids home via the USPS parcel post.
posted by birdherder at 6:37 PM on December 10, 2005


Book rate.
posted by Balisong at 6:39 PM on December 10, 2005


It's sad to say that but an american soldier dead is a less person to kill people all over the world

very sad
posted by zouhair at 6:43 PM on December 10, 2005


The one part I don't understand is the quote above. Is this a common occurance or something unique to this particular case?

That's a good question. I would assume that it differs from unit to unit. This particular unit was very strict on how deaths were handled from their ranks. The utmost of dignity and...well, loving care, was taken for any casualties from among them.

As more than one soldier said to me, "When my time comes, my brothers and sisters in my unit have made a vow to bring me home. I wouldn't do any less than what I'd want for someone to do for me."
posted by ColdChef at 6:48 PM on December 10, 2005


I personally would rather honor all the dead soldiers of any war by working extra hard on ways not to have any soldier go anymore in any fight. It's possible if we really want it.

As for the "honours"...except for the families and those who really met that soldier and honestly felt a sentiment for one, all other better understand that they just want to feel good about their having compassion for a dead body.

You're sooooo good because you feel bad for a dead soldier, wave a flag and wear a pin or attend some very moving celebration ? You feel sooo good it's not you in the grave ?How would you feel to be in the casket, knowing there's nothing to be felt after death ?
posted by elpapacito at 6:58 PM on December 10, 2005


They should be afforded the respect they deserve.

Yes. ...oh, fuck it. I'm feeling too mellow tonight.
posted by Decani at 7:02 PM on December 10, 2005


...except for the families and those who really met that soldier and honestly felt a sentiment for one, all other better understand that they just want to feel good about their having compassion for a dead body.

This came up a lot during the preparation for the Soldier's service I mentioned above. There were a lot of people who came to the services who didn't know his family and who had never even met him. I think if you were to say that they only went to feel good about themselves, you'd be underestimating the motives of most of them. People don't go to funerals to feel better about themselves. There are easier ways to do that.

Many of them came just to thank his family for his service. It's a sign of respect.
posted by ColdChef at 7:08 PM on December 10, 2005


I'll bet you don't care a bit about respect once you're dead.
posted by Balisong at 7:13 PM on December 10, 2005


Many of them came just to thank his family for his service. It's a sign of respect

Probably most of them have been taught it's a "sign of respect" but, you know, actually and factually that doesn't bring the dead back to life.

It only MAY help with some family that find the presence of others useful to vent their anger and pain...but some other families find the presence of these perfect stranger to be an offence or to be irrelevant. I wonder why those who "pay homage" don't always try to understand the families BEFORE the death occours...opps, because they're perfect strangers before ? Maybe.

But I'm even willing to give most of the visiting persons the benefit of doubt..that they really are in good faith and wishing to do good. I wonder, don't they ever think that maybe the best think to do is not to have the families suffer the deaths ? Do they stop , at some point, feeling for others ?

It's this selective time-limited coscience that irks me.
posted by elpapacito at 7:16 PM on December 10, 2005


I'll bet you don't care a bit about respect once you're dead.

I'm sure you don't. Doesn't mean that you don't deserve it, though.
posted by ColdChef at 7:16 PM on December 10, 2005


The most respectful thing you could do is bring them home ALIVE. Respectful to their wives, children, mothers...
posted by Balisong at 7:18 PM on December 10, 2005


what Balisong said.

The military couldn't use their own planes to send dead soldiers home (or to the nearest base, and then drive them)?
posted by amberglow at 7:21 PM on December 10, 2005


Probably most of them have been taught it's a "sign of respect" but, you know, actually and factually that doesn't bring the dead back to life.

Well, that's not really the point of a funeral, is it? I'm not trying to be flip, it's just that we're talking about two different things here. You can mourn someone's death without debating the cause they died for.

I wonder, don't they ever think that maybe the best think to do is not to have the families suffer the deaths ?

Sure, of course you would prefer that they'd never died. Hell, I got paid for burying this kid. Paid well. And I would rather that he hadn't died.
posted by ColdChef at 7:24 PM on December 10, 2005


I wonder how much respect the US military forces show to the bodies and families of the innocent civilians they murder every day.
posted by soiled cowboy at 7:27 PM on December 10, 2005


The military couldn't use their own planes to send dead soldiers home (or to the nearest base, and then drive them)?
While that's possible, there are a lot of boring logistical problems to consider. First and foremost is the size and weight of the shipping containers.
posted by ColdChef at 7:28 PM on December 10, 2005


This is ugly.
posted by homunculus at 7:32 PM on December 10, 2005


Coldchef: your lengthy description of that soldier's final trip was excellent and I flagged it as such. That is much more in line with how a soldier's body should be brought home. I wonder if there was a soldier escort for the body in the linked story.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:32 PM on December 10, 2005


Possibly irrelevant comment: When I worked with Delta Air Lines, we had a red eye flight from SMF-DFW and nearly every night, it left with 1 or 2 full sized coffins. We had strict protocols to follow. The lazy asshats I worked with usually tried to skirt them, butI refused to. Quite often, the family members would be flying along with the coffin.
One of the rules was to not pile mail, cargo, or luggage in with the HR (human remains) but to instead do whatever you could to avoid that. On occasions, we'd run out of room, so we would bump the US Postal Service mail sacks instead.

Yes, the coffins fly as cargo. They came out of the Delta Cargo warehouse. They're often 1000-1500lbs, too. Not at all easy to move around, but generally, we did whatever we could to be respectful.
posted by drstein at 7:34 PM on December 10, 2005


You can mourn someone's death without debating the cause they died for.

One certainly can, but doesn't that make you wonder what's going on in their heads..it's similar to seeing "oh poor one, he's dead" then resuming drinking the coffee and reading the paper, rationalizing that after all they didn't know him so why feel bad ?

Why do they bother ? I guess it's just a formality, showing up to express sincere shallow pain , kind of "sorry your cat died".

Don't get me wrong it's a sincere expression, but sincere doesn't imply hearthfelt. It's sympathy and not empathy.
posted by elpapacito at 7:39 PM on December 10, 2005


Thanks for the comments, ColdChef. Very fascinating (if depressing) story.
posted by wakko at 7:43 PM on December 10, 2005


They deserve to be honored.

The family has certainly earned it, as has the deceased.

Thank you for that description, ColdChef.
posted by darkstar at 7:46 PM on December 10, 2005


They should be afforded the respect they deserve.

This isn't respect.


I don't know, maybe I suffer from outrage fatigue, but the respect they deserve is: their commander in chief should send them off to war for a good reason, not to use up some equipment that needs to be replaced (at a steep price) by the nice military-industrial complex men, not to settle old scores with daddy's enemy, not to chase invisible wmd's.

that's the respect those kids should be afforded.

having said that, of course, a nicer way to bring back their corpses would be welcome.

but all those dead kids have been failed by their commander in chief and by their Pentagon because they've been carelessly sent off to war. war needs a reason, not a mix of heavily-politicized slanted intelligence, political posturing and outright lies.

a commander in chief who deploys his troops wisely, and only as last resort (say, after thorough weapons inspections, like poor Hans Blix was trying to do while the right depictied him as Inspector Clouseau), a commander in chief like that can send the kias back in a FedEx crate, for all I care. they need respect when still alive. nice funerals are irrelevant.
posted by matteo at 7:53 PM on December 10, 2005


I mean, let's pretend for a second that each and every one of the 2,000+ dead in Iraq had been sent back by Air Force One, in a golden casket, with a full orchestra waiting for them at the airport to play Verdi's Requiem.

it'd be nice, but these kids would still be dead.

Bush disrespects them when they're dead because he didn't care for them when they were still alive to begin with.

I'm not outraged by this, sorry. just saddened. but as I said, golden caskets don't change shit
posted by matteo at 7:58 PM on December 10, 2005


ColdChefs post should be on the FP sidebar. Well written, moving and educational.
posted by stbalbach at 8:09 PM on December 10, 2005


I mean, let's pretend for a second that each and every one of the 2,000+ dead in Iraq had been sent back by Air Force One, in a golden casket, with a full orchestra waiting for them at the airport to play Verdi's Requiem.

Maybe if we had done that, more people would care about those dying in this war.
posted by VulcanMike at 8:12 PM on December 10, 2005


Thank you ColdChef. I wasn't trying to attack you, or really anyone. I guess I just haven't fully reached my outrage fatigue breaking point yet, and sometimes I still work myself up into a vibrating lather of outrage over things that keep happening to the world around me.

I know that it's much easier on you to realise just how little of a force a single indivudal can try to press on an issue such as this. It makes for less ulcers, Lower blood pressure, fewer headaches, or in my case less severe chronic heartburn.

Sometimes I wish I had the bliss of religion, but somehow I see the self made hell of critical thought to be 'more healthy'.

Anyway, your post is greatly appriciated.
posted by Balisong at 8:21 PM on December 10, 2005


The procedures differ from service to service. The soldier sleeping next to the casket, for instance, sounds like a Marine thing (not to say an Army guy wouldn't have done it regardless). Probably there are some variations based on unit, but these would be minor. The airlines and destinations involved seem to be key to the treatment issue.

Yes, they could go home on military aircraft and the family could see them at a base with full attended honors. But there are only a fraction of the bases, today, that we had during the Cold War (and e.g. Vietnam). This also affects whether there can be any sort of honor guard meeting the casket.

The politics of this particular complaint are interesting -- it seems to cut across party lines and support for the war, so it's ideal for the media (especially local media looking for an angle). I think to some extent it reflects a difference in expectations between the survivor families and what the military is prepared and trained to offer. One complaint I saw was about a casket shown to the family while on an end-loader. It does seem to me that an end-loader is the apporpriate equipment to bring a casket off a plane. But few airports have any military facilities at all, let alone a handsome place to set a coffin while the family comes to look. If you want to see it right off the plane you'll have to expect a certain lack of ambience. But again this comes down to communication. Certainly if your kid's coffin is the first to arrive at Podunk Field, N. Dak., the people there are going to be making it up as they go.

I wonder if the military has the legal right to request specific services and attention, regardless of the facilities, equipment, and personnel available. It might be worthwhile to set procedures of some sort, though, if this is the new method of body handling. Something akin to the Flag Code, for military bodies? Airlines are public carriers and federally regulated.
posted by dhartung at 8:26 PM on December 10, 2005




Package contains one (1) US Marine. Store in a cool, dry place. This end up.


posted by insomnia_lj at 8:46 PM on December 10, 2005


Lots of talk in this thread. Many Yays and Nays. But shouldn't every one of us who haven't served or lost someone who served just SHUT THE FUCK UP?

I'll be the first to admit that the U.S. hasn't put it's best foot forward, but god damn, military service is a tradition in the U.S. And a great one.

Maybe the POTUS is a horse's ass, but the tradition of service lives beyond that. Give respect to those who serve the country. They are not towing party lines. They're just soldiers.
posted by snsranch at 9:01 PM on December 10, 2005


I served. USAF.
posted by Balisong at 9:05 PM on December 10, 2005


Any US airline that gets a federal subsidy should be oblighed to bring these soldiers home as passengers. And those flights should be booked full of passengers who voted republican in 2004.

Bookrate.

Indeed. Call it the WalMartization of warfare.
posted by squirrel at 9:06 PM on December 10, 2005


The dead don't care if you respect them.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 9:06 PM on December 10, 2005


I wonder how this was treated in other low-casualty* conflicts, like Somalia, Gulf War I, Panama, and so on. Even early Vietnam, I suppose.

* by which I mean, ones where there weren't dozens or more bodies coming home every day.
posted by furiousthought at 9:10 PM on December 10, 2005


Well, it wasn't very respectful to let them die for some idiotic BS either.

I'm all for respecting the dead, but, well, the body itself just doesn't seem all that important to me.
posted by delmoi at 9:29 PM on December 10, 2005


Thanks for the education coldchef. Of course, you basically ruined the tone of the post, leading to the usual suspects repeating the same talking points which have nothing at all to do with the post at hand.

"You mean they do arrive with respect? Well, they shouldn't be there in the first place. Bring them home, that's respect!"

So disappointed they are that they turn this thread into every other poltical/war thread.

Good job I say.
posted by justgary at 9:35 PM on December 10, 2005


What branch of service were you in justgary?
posted by Balisong at 9:37 PM on December 10, 2005


Yeah justgary, whenever people talk about the dead, they should always avoid talking about their death and its meaning. I mean, what a leap...
posted by wilful at 9:41 PM on December 10, 2005


that's the respect those kids should be afforded.

You're talking about two different things, matteo. One shows respect toward the living, the other to the dead. For some reason this reminds me of the anti-abortion crusaders whose limitless efforts to save the unborn suddenly vanish when there's a real, breathing person that needs help.

He declined their offer, and slept on the floor, in the hangar, next to the shipping container until the next morning. This was his choice.

Excellent post, ColdChef.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:46 PM on December 10, 2005


The dead don't care if you respect them.
No they don't.
But the dying may find some comfort in the thought that they will be honored after they're gone.

Great post, ColdChef.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:01 PM on December 10, 2005


But the dying may find some comfort in the thought that they will be honored after they're gone.

It's no 72 virgins... But at least you can know that your carcas will be end loaded with care, and there *probably* won't be a stack of credit card pre-approval letters on your casket, if they can manage it.
posted by Balisong at 10:06 PM on December 10, 2005


A more detailed account of what ColdChef describes was in this thread.

The soldiers dying are not Republicans or Democrats. They are soldiers. They follow in the footsteps of those that went before them ... those that have been sent to necessary fights, and perhaps some ill-considered. They have received the executive order to go to war by both Republican and Democrat, Liberal and Conservative. Honoring their sacrifice is not honoring a politician, a policy, a war or a cause. Their sacrifice is respected because when they were called to duty, they went.
posted by forforf at 10:16 PM on December 10, 2005


Maybe the POTUS is a horse's ass, but the tradition of service lives beyond that. Give respect to those who serve the country. They are not towing party lines. They're just soldiers.
It's not up to us how soldiers are treated--alive or dead, but up to leaders. Where is the respect shown these people for their sacrifice? They paid the ultimate price, and they shouldn't be treated like my underwear and souvenirs.
posted by amberglow at 10:20 PM on December 10, 2005


The article has nothing to say about how the dead soldiers are treated. It says that they are shipped as freight in an airplane. The respect is in HOW the remains are treated during transit.
They're are many more commercial flights than there are military flights. And if it were my son, I would want him home as soon as possible, regardless of whether it was a military transport or civilian transport. I would want a modicum of decorum, but I feel that's possible on a civilian flight, as well as a commercial flight.
posted by forforf at 10:29 PM on December 10, 2005


But shouldn't every one of us who haven't served or lost someone who served just SHUT THE FUCK UP?

No, of course not. What an odd question to ask.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:34 PM on December 10, 2005


werd, stav.
posted by darkstar at 10:40 PM on December 10, 2005


"They have received the executive order to go to war by both Republican and Democrat, Liberal and Conservative."

Actually, no. An executive order is inherently from the executive branch. (i.e. the president.)

Also, it should be noted that even those Democrats who gave Bush approval to use the Armed Forces, did so only to:
(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.

Given that the president knew that there was no verifiable threat from Iraq, and the UN Security Council specifically refused to authorize military actions against Iraq, it can be argued that the president exceeded his mandate. He most certainly misused and exploited it.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:50 PM on December 10, 2005


*grind, grind, grind*
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:51 PM on December 10, 2005


*bang, bang, bang*
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 10:55 PM on December 10, 2005


Lots of talk in this thread. Many Yays and Nays. But shouldn't every one of us who haven't died and been shipped in a luggage compartment just SHUT THE FUCK UP?
posted by parallax7d at 11:13 PM on December 10, 2005


I'll never understand why people continue to make out military service to be something worthy of respect. It's difficult, it's dangerous, it's possibly life-threatening. But it's still just a job. For many of those kids, it was the only viable choice they had for work. I don't know if that's necessarily something that warrants respect.
posted by nightchrome at 11:15 PM on December 10, 2005


"They have received the executive order to go to war by both Republican and Democrat, Liberal and Conservative."

When making that comment, I wasn't speaking of just the current war, but rather the history of United States wars.
Specifically ...
War of 1812 - Madison - Democratric Republican (heh!)
Mexican-Armerican War - Polk - Democrat
Civil War - Lincoln - Republican
Spanish-American War - McKinley - Republican
World War I - Wilson - Democrat
World War II - Roosevelt - Democrat
Korean War - Truman - Democrat
Vietnam War - Kennedy - Democrat
Gulf War I - Bush Sr - Republican
Gulf War II - Bush Jr - Republican

That's not including Panama, Bosnia, Somalia, the Phillipines etc.
posted by forforf at 11:17 PM on December 10, 2005


I'll never understand why people continue to make out military service to be something worthy of respect.


I don't know of any other job where you can be ordered to put yourself in imminent mortal danger as an instrument of national policy. Also, you lose some rights while in the military service, I don't recall that being the case in any other job. I'm not saying you have to respect them for that. I'm just saying a lot of people do respect them for that, and a lot of those people can't understand why someone wouldn't respect the military.
posted by forforf at 11:31 PM on December 10, 2005


I guess it's just one of those things where people can't see eye to eye because they're looking in different directions.
posted by nightchrome at 11:45 PM on December 10, 2005


Vietnam War - Kennedy - Democrat

I thought Eisenhower started Vietnam?
posted by amberglow at 11:48 PM on December 10, 2005


I'd like to think that being ashamed of this practice is the reason the administration banned photos of coffins at Dover Air Force Base, but I don't believe they have the character to be ashamed.



I wonder if Halliburton has the contract for the flags, too.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:52 PM on December 10, 2005


Hurry up and die already is what I say. Murdering bastards the lot. You take a gun into a foreign country, you deserve to die, pure and simple.
No, I don't need to respect them, I don't need to honor them. No, they did nothing for my freedom.
Murder and looting is not honorable.
posted by Osmanthus at 12:00 AM on December 11, 2005


The glorification of dead soldiers is part of the problem - war is ugly and the results are too.

You don't need a ceremony to show that you miss somebody, and you are sorry for their death. All the fanfare and tribute does is encourage more people to support war and join the forces. War has for too long been associated with words like glory, honour and respect. By now we should realise what it is really about.
posted by iso_bars at 1:18 AM on December 11, 2005


Well I understand what you think, especially based on all the needless wars and conflicts in the past 60 years that the US has started.

Participation in a war can be a honorable and respected practice, depending on the war. Defending your country (WWII) or another helpless country (Gulf I) is a very selfless activity, worthy of the utmost respect.
posted by parallax7d at 2:01 AM on December 11, 2005


You can't take a picture of a flag-draped coffin, because that would be disrespectful, but you can ship the coffin UPS and that's fine and dandy.

It's almost as if- and I'm sure this isn't the case- it's almost as if all the administration really cares about is spinning the news cycle. Ouf of sight, out of mind; if the voters don't see it, the voters won't care.

But I'm sure that's not the case. These are honorable men.
posted by Jatayu das at 2:44 AM on December 11, 2005


But shouldn't every one of us who haven't served or lost someone who served just SHUT THE FUCK UP?

those who haven't served, like Bush and Cheney?

and forforf, VietNam is either Eisenhower or LBJ
posted by matteo at 5:56 AM on December 11, 2005


But shouldn't every one of us who haven't served or lost someone who served just SHUT THE FUCK UP?

On what principle ? That if you didn't do then you can't speak ? No, absolutely not, I will never. it's just an excuse used by some people to shield themselves from toughts they don't like to hear or be heard by others, expecially by soldiers that could realize what's going on.

And pardon this snark, but you're not honoring the memory of these who dead for freedom of speech when you argue some people should shut the fuck up. Actually it's a proof the concept wasn't promoted nor sustained by their death and that their death was, indeed, not as useful as they hoped would be.

I was a soldier but you or others don't need my permission to speak your tought, not matter how vile or good I
think it is. That's what freedom of speech is all about I guess.

But the dying may find some comfort in the thought that they will be honored after they're gone

Some may find it comforting, some may find it discomforting. What they have in common, I guess, is they all would rather not die.
posted by elpapacito at 6:28 AM on December 11, 2005


Vietman was the result of continuous escalation from Eisenhower, Kennedy and LBJ. That was one seriously long and complicated conflict.

But then again, I didn' t serve, so what the fuck do I know.
posted by jmgorman at 7:11 AM on December 11, 2005


Great post ColdChef. Worthy of a post on metametafilter, best of the best of the web.
posted by minkll at 7:18 AM on December 11, 2005


drstein proved my point in that deceased are shipped on planes as cargo regularly, this is nothing out of the ordinary and they are still afforded the respect that they deserve.

But shouldn't every one of us who haven't served or lost someone who served just SHUT THE FUCK UP?

Seven years, Canadian Forces.
posted by furtive at 7:23 AM on December 11, 2005


Thanks for the comment, ColdChef. And I remember the post forforf linked. It took me about two hours to get through it all.

Osmanthus, as I generally do when I think someone makes a totally shitheaded comment, I took a look at your user page hoping maybe you had some personal info or a webpage. Something that I could read through to maybe get a sense of where you're coming from. Big suprise, there was nada. So I'm just going to put you in the "piece of shit" file if that's OK with you.
posted by Cyrano at 7:27 AM on December 11, 2005


Vietman was the result of continuous escalation from Eisenhower, Kennedy and LBJ.

Don't forget Kissinger. Also known as Nixon.
posted by soiled cowboy at 7:49 AM on December 11, 2005


Hey Cyrano - I think what Osmanthus might be trying to express is a deep sense of frustration. In this thread for instance we see you get all teary eyed about your 'fallen heroes' never questioning whether what they did was at all heroic.

I don't want to rehash old arguments but what you are doing in Iraq isn't exactly heroic when seen through any other lens but the one your media offers you.

You are - after all - in another man's country, under false pretences and killing what seems to be a rather unconscionable number of innocents.

Surely if there are real heroes of war it's the men, women and children of Iraq, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Columbia, Cuba, Nicaragua and so many other countries that have been on the recieving end of so much violence. Surely they have the first claim on a decent funeral and, if they live, deserve our respect, care and compassion.

Instead we have you singing peans of praise over a "well paid' undertakers description of how he took care of the corpse of a dead soldier.

Meanwhile you burn the bodies of people who sought to oppose you while broadcasting abuse to their famiies. They were soldiers too - and by the same logic surely deserving of as much respect.

And again - the other bodies, torn apart and burnt by your bombs are left to rot in the street.

No coffin or final farewell for the 2 year old your bombs tore apart, but somehow we're expected to join in your respect for the honourable men and women who helped put her there.

For some of us this doesn't add up.

Despite this being a left of centre site, it just seems strange that you still stick by the idea that your military are somehow deserving of unconditional respect.

OK - so i read all your posts and you argue that the soldiers aren't responsible for what they do. (Which, as an ex career soldier I take issue with). But who is responsible? Your leaders? Your media? Well surely it's you?

But instead of feeling shame at what you;re doing you attack Osmanthus for intruding on your beliefs - and attack him/her brutally: - 'shithead', 'piece of shit file'.

Look, a uniform and a gun doesn;t make someone a hero - it's their actions. And your actions in Iraq don't look very heroic.

Perhaps your soldiers might not deserve a hero's welcome?
posted by fingerbang at 8:54 AM on December 11, 2005


word
posted by jmgorman at 9:23 AM on December 11, 2005


Bush disrespects them when they're dead because he didn't care for them when they were still alive to begin with.

Dead on target. I'm not outraged by the story (or not as outraged as I am by the war itself), but I am a bit irked. I think it's good that this was posted, if for no other reason than to show that Bush & Co's rhetoric about respecting the sacrifices of American troops is just that, rhetoric. Empty rhetoric with no honest feeling or commitment behind it.

As for some of the more heated anti-military rhetoric in this thread. I certainly agree that our military has been party to a lot of horrible things (as have, to be fair, most militaries). But the fact is that in the world as it is today, having a military is, for lack of a better term, a neccessary evil. And I respect those who are willing to risk their safety serving in it. This does not mean I'd excuse any atrocity committed in it's name or silence any criticism of it. And I deplore the fact that in this instance, it has been used for no good reason, killing and wounding Americans and Iraqis alike. But I fear the polarization I hear from many of my anti-war compatriots, since I see the chances for any kind of reconstruction of what this country should be dwindling.

Thanks to ColdChef for his usual humanity and compassion and matteo for his insight and compassion.
posted by jonmc at 9:41 AM on December 11, 2005


Death rituals are for the living. If many of you are so concerned about respect for people when they're alive why aren't you fighting world hunger or making sure people aren't homeless? Instead you're questioning why the survivors of men (as in hu-man, not excluding women) killed serving their country should be comforted by this support structure and why that support structure shouldn't be more visibly sensitive to their needs.
Well...Fuck you.

I'll never understand why people continue to make out military service to be something worthy of respect...
I don't know if that's necessarily something that warrants respect. - posted by nightchrome


You're entitled to your opinion nightcrome. But (divorced from the political angle) military service is supposed to be about protecting and serving your country. That it doesn't work out that way doesn't disgrace the men, but those who pervert it to their own ends. I'm not too happy about that either.

Hurry up and die already is what I say -posted by Osmanthus
Ohh, what an "edgy" comment. Let's all pay attention to you now. Yeah, I remember my first beer.

"But shouldn't every one of us who haven't served or lost someone who served just
SHUT THE FUCK UP?"
On what principle ? -posted by elpapacito

elpapacito, I don't think snsranch was espousing a principle so much as voicing an emotion. Maybe you were a soldier, maybe you weren't. I served, but that doesn't matter. We can all relate to not wanting our loved ones to die or wanting any innocents in some other country to die.
That's not the issue. What I believe snsranch was pointing at was what I mentioned earlier. It's not about the politics or the fact of war itself. It's about showing the living some respect and comfort and doing honor to the fallen man.
People will take their hats off as a funeral procession passes whether they know the person or not or whether that person was a bastard or not. It's simple respect for the survivors.
I don't think you were intimating this, but if we're so concerned about the other intangibles why don't we just go and piss on their graves while their families are there to show just how we feel about the war, Bush, fighting in general or whatever other chips we may have on our shoulders we can unload at the expense of the grieving who are doing nothing more than mourning someone they knew or cared about in a manner that helps relieve that grief?

This method (as first posted here and certain stories of mishandling posted elsewhere) is disrespectful and insensitive. It's that simple.
I can commiserate with those who take the "Yeah, that's typical" kind of position, I agree that we should show photos of the coffins drapped with flags because it honors them, I even agree that showing some carnage could bring the pain of war home and possibly prevent more, but injecting some kind of position to somehow mitigate or occlude that it's ok to treat the honored dead callously in front of the grief stricken or even behind the scenes is simply being stupid.
If drstein (and furtive) are correct, then that certainly helps and perhaps on the whole it's a non-issue.

I wonder how this was treated in other low-casualty* conflicts, like Somalia, Gulf War I, Panama, and so on. -
posted by furiousthought


Mostly privately. Don McFaul had a destroyer named after him, which was nice.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:43 AM on December 11, 2005


fingerbang, no offense, and certainly Osmanthus may have been expressing frustration as snsranch was, but your comment: Perhaps your soldiers might not deserve a hero's welcome? confuses me.

In part because I don't think anyone is asking the country (My country, the country at issue here, the USA) to unreservedly support the troops. Or rather, those that are are clearly hypocrites as well expressed by several commenters here. If that's what you mean, that's fair enough.
But shouldn't our government shouldn't give them a "hero's" welcome?
Shouldn't the survivors be given some support?

But if, fingerbang, you're an ex-career soldier and you agree with Osmanthus' sentiments that we're "Murdering bastards the lot" and "You take a gun into a foreign country, you deserve to die, pure and simple" why then haven't you committed suicide?
posted by Smedleyman at 10:03 AM on December 11, 2005


One too many 'shouldn'ts' there sorry.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:04 AM on December 11, 2005


Perhaps it is time we stopped calling it a "War" and started calling it an "Occupation" after all we are not living in "Wartime" America and Bush is not a "Wartime" President. "I think about the war. I think about the war every day."

I'll never understand why people continue to make out military service to be something worthy of respect. It's difficult, it's dangerous, it's possibly life-threatening. But it's still just a job. For many of those kids, it was the only viable choice they had for work. I don't know if that's necessarily something that warrants respect.
posted by nightchrome at 2:15 AM EST on December 11

It is not just a life-threatening job. It's not like you work 8 hours and then go home-- or even work one week on and one week off. It is a full time commitment which is not to be entered into lightly. Many, probably most, people enter the service out of patriotism, a desire to serve this country. They don't get to decide where they are sent or how they will be used-- they are, after all, only pawns.

The glorification of dead soldiers is part of the problem - war is ugly and the results are too.

You don't need a ceremony to show that you miss somebody, and you are sorry for their death. All the fanfare and tribute does is encourage more people to support war and join the forces. War has for too long been associated with words like glory, honour and respect. By now we should realise what it is really about.

posted by iso_bars at 4:18 AM EST on December 11

You personally may not need a ceremony, but it is helpful to most people to have some sort of ritual. Fan fare and tribute not only helps the grieving family come to terms with their loss (making the death meaningful,) it also helps the living soldiers know that we respect them and their sacrifices.

I would prefer that the soldiers in Iraq feel that their nation watches and respects them for their services. What we don't want is a bunch of rogue soldiers doing whatever they want because they feel that nobody notices and nobody cares.

And think about what you are proposing. Would it really help to bury these soldiers in ignominy? To shovel them into the ground as fast as possible in some sort of Potter's field with no witnesses at all? Do you think that would end the war faster? I think it would just allow this President to throw away his "pawns" even more callously and with less regard than he already is doing.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:05 AM on December 11, 2005


I would prefer that the soldiers in Iraq feel that their nation watches and respects them for their services. What we don't want is a bunch of rogue soldiers doing whatever they want because they feel that nobody notices and nobody cares.

This is incredibly insightful, SLoG. Both Vietnam and our current conflict are similar in that they lack solid public support, have detached, cynical leadership, and are/were fought by those of a certain demographic rather than by one representative of the whole population. And there were lots of civilian casualties and atrocities. I'd never thought of it before now, but these factors are not unconnected.
posted by jonmc at 10:13 AM on December 11, 2005


I feel pity for anyone -- soldier or civilian -- in the middle of this unfortunate, misguided shitstorm. As such I think they all deserve our sympathy and respect. I'd venture a guess that the jarheads who get their rocks off on all the death and mayhem are the minority. Think of the reservists who had been away from active duty for years only to be called up and sent into the fray. The truth is that so many sign up thinking they're serving an honorable cause, their country, and know they may die for that. They commit knowing they have no choice over where and how they do so. (OK, little choice -- there's much honor in refusing to serve in a war you disagree with, and either fleeing the country or going to jail for your principles.)

During the Vietnam War, soldiers were lambasted as "baby killers." Today, the U.S. perception has changed -- even the baby killers themselves, many of whom are good and mindfucked, living on the streets missing limbs and abusing drugs and alcohol to escape the memories that haunt them. Thirty years from now, won't the Iraq vets be in the same place?

When a coffin comes home, I have no way to judge who the soldier was, or what he or she did in the theater. I say, honor them all, for their families' sake, and let god sort it out.
posted by donpedro at 10:47 AM on December 11, 2005


I wonder how much respect the US military forces show to the bodies and families of the innocent civilians they murder every day.

and

Meanwhile you burn the bodies of people who sought to oppose you ...

And as for civilians and insurgents who've died -- I hope to god U.S. forces aren't touching their bodies, either to burn corpses or to try to give them some sort of ceremonial burial. Different cultures have different death rites, stay the fuck out of it.
posted by donpedro at 10:56 AM on December 11, 2005


"But if, fingerbang, you're an ex-career soldier and you agree with Osmanthus' sentiments that we're "Murdering bastards the lot" and "You take a gun into a foreign country, you deserve to die, pure and simple" why then haven't you committed suicide?"

Well Smedleyman, let's put it this way: I think about it a lot.

But while I took a gun into another man's country - I never did anything, anything, to rival what your nation has done.

Sure, you want a heroes welcome for your dead, have it. But you're only kidding yourself if you think they really were heroes.

Forgive me but as a nation I see the US as very solipsistic - unable to understand anyone's pain but their own. That was the point I was trying to get across.
posted by fingerbang at 11:07 AM on December 11, 2005


smedleyman:

It's about showing the living some respect and comfort and doing honor to the fallen man.
People will take their hats off as a funeral procession passes whether they know the person or not or whether that person was a bastard or not [...] It's simple respect for the survivors.This method [..mishandling..] is disrespectful and insensitive. It's that simple.

To some people, hat tipping means "I recognize your pain" to others "I salute the dead one" to others means "hello" ...obviously the context helps giving an otherwise insignificant gesture some particular significance. It's one among many unspoken communication channels.

To others just being present at a funeral means partecipating to the assumed pain suffered by the loved ones, to others is just a posture, to others it's a way to gain visibility and showing they're compassionate. Others feel that by attending a funeral they're showing ompassion and that, therefore, they're worthy of praise.

Others just want to show off they're compassionate , assuming that most of people will take the participating to funeral, hat tipping as a praiseworthy sign of respect.

Some among them are the ones who tip hat at a moment, at two minutes later are planning how to more efficiently and less expensively move bodies from iraq to us : some other are going to think about curing soldiers illness, some other are going to produce white phosphorous to more efficiently kill people and soldiers. What do they have in common ? Among the others things, the hat tipping at the funeral.

I understand that to some people showing up at a funeral is the next most appreiciated thing, but I wonder why many among them
associate "honorable " and "honoring" to positive without considering that the same people paying "homage" are the ones that
sent their loved ones to meet death. Doesnt' that seem irreconciliable, incompatible, utterly absurd to them ?

Apparently not...and indeed a lot of honoring is being done and more soldiers die. Honoring didn't change the core of the problem, apparently.
posted by elpapacito at 1:05 PM on December 11, 2005


I never did anything, anything, to rival what your nation has done.

fingerbang: It's fairly easy to take the moral high ground when contrasting the practices and policies of an entire nation's armed forces against your own.
I would think that someone who thought about it a lot, and who served their own nation, would know that there's a human being inside every uniform.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:35 PM on December 11, 2005


But the point is not how human soldiers are, or the existence of a military in the first place, it's that word "heroes" being used almost automatically for everyone who dies in military service.

It's only fair that fallen soldiers should get proper funeral rites according to military traditions and all, but, even without going into the specifics of the situation in Iraq, it's also fair to point out that only enlisting in a war and ending up dead doesn't make you a hero. It's rhetoric best left to war politicians. IMHO.
posted by funambulist at 2:10 PM on December 11, 2005


*removes hat, stands silently for a moment*
posted by darkstar at 6:19 PM on December 11, 2005


Forgive me but as a nation I see the US as very solipsistic - unable to understand anyone's pain but their own. That was the point I was trying to get across. - posted by fingerbang
Nothing to forgive there. It's a fair criticism.

Apparently not...and indeed a lot of honoring is being done and more soldiers die. Honoring didn't change the core of the problem, apparently. - posted by elpapacito

Agreed. One may smile and smile and be a villian.
But from my perspective I consider it something off the table. We will still smile. We know who's just faking it.

it's that word "heroes" being used almost automatically for everyone who dies in military service. - posted by funambulist
I think we all know how politicians clothe themselves in dead men's blood. And it's a word bandied about far too much.
But I have yet to hear anyone of any real character step off the plane home and say (mimicry)"Look at me I'm a hero for serving!"
I think fingerbang and I are in the same mental space. I probably have a bit more pennance to do. But I think in some sense honoring the dead is part of this.
Talk to any fireman, call him a hero and he'll resent it. He knows it's a team effort. Same thing with any good unit. Firemen don't kill people for a living, but they are just as violent, shiftless or criminal as any other group of people, perhaps a bit lower average, but bad apples abound.
Similar circumstances with service members.
But let's allow for altruism in both cases - as opposed to being a say a businessman. Certainly you can have a selfish service man and a generous businessman - personally. But working for money is essentially a selfish pursuit, working to serve your country isn't.
Obviously there are degrees there, exceptions of course, and I'm making a large generalization. But hopefully the general idea is clear. There is at least an altruistic goal in serving or furthering the ends of national policy, as opposed to simply doing for oneself. It makes the subversion of those goals all the more tragic. That those goals are inferior to other more laudible universal ones such as ending hunger or finding homes for people doesn't invalidate them. That those goals are superior to more selfish pursuits such as working simply for money or at the economic expense of others as most people do, does, for me, qualify military service as deserving of some respect. Not the fanatic hero worship it's outwardly shown by the hypocrites of course.
But I'll concede that military service as deserving of respect from general principles also means it is - deservedly - subject to a far more critical eye than some job, say, installing vending machines. Thats the risk, and that's the sacrifice. That you can fail. That you can fall. That's not going to happen slinging hot dogs.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:54 PM on December 11, 2005


I'll add military service gets not only a different measure but a different kind of respect than, say, Doctors without borders or something of that sort which is an absolute good.
But we can't all be doctors, or pure altruists, etc.

But people who vociferously espouse those values seem to keep getting nailed to trees or shot in the back of the head or set on fire and such. It'd be very nice though. I'm working on it. It's harder than it looks.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:01 PM on December 11, 2005


Jesus' General UPS ad
posted by amberglow at 9:17 PM on December 11, 2005


Around the time the Memory Hole published those pictures of the flag-draped coffins, I read a very long procedure manual for the handling of servicemembers' remains from the moment they were killed to the commital. Wish I could find it now -- does this ring a bell for anyone?

The thing that was the most memorable about it was the tone of unqualified respect for these peoples' sacrifices. Remains were to be treated with the utmost respect, and what ColdChef describes sounds like it's SOP.

Our military does many, many deeply-screwed-up things, but this is one thing they do right. Unfortunately, it's happening more and more.

And I don't see what's disrespectful about shipping remains as freight. It's the fastest way to get them to their families, and every body is escorted every step of the way by someone who cares.
posted by Vidiot at 10:04 PM on December 11, 2005


But working for money is essentially a selfish pursuit, working to serve your country isn't.

Smedleyman, I just don't think in those terms, because for one thing, working for money isn't necessarily "selfish" (anymore than eating or breathing is selfish, and then there's jobs that go beyond the necessity of earning money, at least if you have some choice; and then all, or well, most or a lot of, jobs are useful in a wider way, for their industry, for the economy at large, for providing services and products, etc.) Secondly, in a voluntary army, you are working for money anyway.

So I don't see that being in the military is necessarily altruistic. You say it is because it means "serving or furthering the ends of national policy, as opposed to simply doing for oneself". But what about that national policy? does serving the ends of any national policy suffice to define it as altruistic? then shouldn't we also be honouring the dead nazi or fascists and the soviet army that invaded Poland or Afghanistan and so on? especially as most were conscripted and didn't even have a choice... We can recognise the human tragedy in that but doesn't mean we can say they're all heroes.

NB not equating the US presence in Iraq with any of that, just making the extreme example that if you don't take into account what that army is doing, and think it's an altruistic pursuit regardless of the policy it furthers, then anything goes...

Having a military is a necessity for any country, and for a superpower it is even more of a strategic interest. It's not a noble goal in itself. It has nothing to do with being noble or altruistic. It's a pragmatic thing. And the ethical part of it all depends how it's used. If there is a sort of ideal, it's that a military should have defensive purposes, but when you stretch the notion of defensive to include "pre-emptive" attacks and invasion, it's quite a different story.

I can understand that, especially if you're in the army, you view the ideal aspect of it as altruistic sacrifice, and see the reality as a subversion of the ideal. I can understand it from a personal point of view, but politically it's not true. I think that's more like romanticising the military than being objective about it.

That those goals are inferior to other more laudible universal ones such as ending hunger or finding homes for people doesn't invalidate them.

It's just completely different areas, I wouldn't even compare the two things, besides, there's a difference between paid doctors and volunteers, and there's a difference between voluntary NGO workers and paid NGO workers. The fact someone gets paid doesn't invalidate their usefulness, but the fact they do something to serve a wider purpose also doesn't invalidate the fact they chose to do it.

And when you choose to go into the army and fight in a war, then that cannot be separated from the nature of that war, the purpose, the effect, the actions being carried out in it, the killing being done, etc.

It is a riskier job than most. You know you could get killed. That's what requires a different attitude than laying bricks or selling vending machines. And I can have all the human sympathy for soldiers who get killed in action, regardless of what they were fighting for. And like I said I think it's only normal they should be honoured within the military according to those traditions, given respectful rites and all -- but translating that honouring on a political level is what I have a problem with.

(PS - we always seem to cross paths in these discussions... I'm not doing it on purpose, I swear, and I actually appreciate your point of view even when I strongly disagree, so don't take it personally)
posted by funambulist at 2:39 AM on December 12, 2005


“I think it's only normal they should be honoured within the military according to those traditions, given respectful rites and all -- but translating that honouring on a political level is what I have a problem with.”- posted by funambulist

I think we agree there.

“because for one thing, working for money isn't necessarily "selfish"...does serving the ends of any national policy suffice to define it as altruistic? then shouldn't we also be honouring the dead nazi or fascists and the soviet army that invaded Poland or Afghanistan and so on?
think it's an altruistic pursuit regardless of the policy it furthers, then anything goes.”

Yeah, I was afraid of not expressing the idea well and getting that response. It’s not what I meant.
I would say that anyone who volunteers to serve their country - that is an act not self-oriented in a way that getting a job is.
Not the job or service themselves.
And yes policy must be taken into consideration. In the broader sense I’ll allow all that. I was trying to isolate “soldiering” as opposed to “copywriting” or some such thing. In the Platonic ideal I suppose - divorced of other considerations.

Mostly because there are too many intangibles and complexities involved to draw it down to the practical level or the individual level.
Is Bush for example a good President? Debatable certainly. He is, unquestionably, the President, but eventually he won’t be. The office exists whether he is there or not.
A value judgement does - I agree with you - depend on what he does with it. But the office itself is meant to serve people. It is not morally neutral, it is meant to serve.
Similar to the position of soldier.

In that sense I do think it's an altruistic pursuit regardless of the policy it furthers. Perhaps altruism is a poor choice of words however.
There is a difference between a contract that says I will make and serve customers hot dogs in exchange for $X an hour and one that says I will die if necessary for $X an hour.
You need more of an incentive than money to make someone do the latter job. They have to believe - justified or not - that they are protecting their country, their values, swearing to defend and uphold the constitution, etc.
I’m not debating the usefulness to society or asserting that a soldier following a national policy of genocide is blameless, I’m simply separating the two and pointing to the mechanism.
But perhaps it’s a poor choice on my part to choose that ground to debate on. It’s the self-evident that most often trips people up when it’s transitioned into practice. But as i said, too many intangibles to say “All ‘X’ are bad” or “All ‘X’ are good”.

I, like most folks, tend to think the office of President is there to serve the people. That I give the man holding the office the benefit of the doubt at first is analogus to this desire to call soldiers “heros.” We want to give the benefit of the doubt that they acted in the manner we expect.
We do this with teachers, firemen, reporters, etc. Benefit of the doubt. And when they don’t act in that way, we get more upset than when someone who serves hot dogs does the same thing.
Mimicry: “A police officer? Molest a child!? My God!”
As opposed to “A shoe salesman? Molest a child!? My God!”
Doesn’t have the same shock value. On the personal level it might. If the shoe salesman is of particularly visible virtue. But the job itself carries no expectations.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:08 PM on December 12, 2005


p.s. I like talkin' to you so nbd.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:22 PM on December 12, 2005


Well, at least the Bush adminstration is being consistent, they don't respect the soldiers while they're alive so why should we expect them to respect them when they're dead, blown up by their own (BushCo's) incompetence?

They disrespect our living veterans too. There's nothing really surprising about this information, aside from the fact that people don't seem to expect much better from this current posse of fools.

I'm ashamed of how they have behaved in my name.
posted by fenriq at 4:43 PM on December 12, 2005


They deserve to be honored.

No they don't, they enabled a war crime.

Hey ho, good thing I'm too late back to this thread. But I won't stop calling this mindless troop-supporting bullshit. I don't honour war crime and I certainly don't honour people who participate in a criminal war - especially if there's even a sniff of "they were only obeying orders" about it.
posted by Decani at 5:50 AM on December 14, 2005


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