The reason behind the refusal to allow Staff Sergeant Thomas Florich, 26, to be buried in the revered cemetery is the fact that he died during a training exercise and not while on active duty.
— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) March 16, 2015
"Staff Sgt. Florich's death was tragic, and a deep loss to his family, the Army, and our nation. His record of service makes him eligible for inurnment, so he may be forever enshrined in Arlington National Cemetery; however, since at the time of his death he was on active duty for training only, he therefore does not meet the well-established criteria for interment in Arlington National Cemetery," a representative for the burial ground told Newser.
The cemetery is reportedly running out of space and is expected to be completely full within 40 years.
Florich’s father, Stephen Florich, is a former Army major and a Green Beret. He believes that since his son died in uniform he deserves a plot at the prestigious cemetery, and is calling the rejection a slap in the face.
The grieving father has stated that there has been overwhelming support for his family and his fight, from military veterans and government leaders. He also added that some living veterans have offered to give up their plots for his son to be buried.
Col. Pete Schneider, spokesman for the Louisiana National Guard, has publicly stated that he is disappointed in the decision not to welcome him into Arlington.
Louisiana representative Charles W. Boustany, Jr. has also asked for an exception to be made, stating that Florich "was supporting active duty Marines when the training accident occurred."
Representative Garret Graves has also thrown his name into the mix, stating that granting the family’s wish is “the right thing to do.”
Florich’s family has filed an appeal with the secretary of the Army asking for an exception.