NEW ORLEANS (NBC NEWS) — Arlington National Cemetery says a Louisiana National Guardsman who was killed in a helicopter crash in the Gulf of Mexico can’t be buried at the hallowed grounds because he was killed during a training exercise.
The burial plots are only for service members who die on active duty and space is limited, the cemetery says.
His father, a former Army major and Green Beret, calls the burial rejection “a slap in the face.”
“My son died in uniform and deserved to be buried at Arlington,” said Stephen Florich, of King George, Virginia, which is about 45 miles south of Arlington Cemetery.
Stephen Florich said some veterans have told him they would give up their own spot in the cemetery for his son. “I’m overwhelmed by the support my family and I have received from across the country,” he added.
In a statement, the Army said, “Staff Sgt. Florich’s death was tragic, and a deep loss to his family, the Army and our nation … 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.”
Cemetery spokeswoman Jennifer Lynch said Arlington is expected to run out of burial space in about 40 years.