Thursday, December 28, 2006

So Which Way Do You Come Down?

One of the benefits of honorably completing your military service used to be that you were entitled to be buried in Arlington National Cemetary. (From what I understand, because of the lack of space, this is not amended to burial at a national cemetary). Earlier this year, Russell Wayne Wagner, a Vietnam-era veteran, died of a drug overdose. He was cremated. His ashes were interred at Arlington.

Apparently, the Federal Government is going to disinter his remains.

The part that I did not tell you before was that Mr. Wagner was serving a life sentence for murder at the time he died. (Incidentally, the drug overdoes was heroin.)

I understand the desire of the victim's family to want to deny Mr. Wagner an honor in death for what he did. Furthermore, I understand the idea behind the bill that made this possible.

The reason I ask this is because there are many men and women who will and have served their country honorably and well, and not all of them will have the good fortune to be able to re-adjust once their service is over. It does not seem like a lot, but the historian in me has an appreciation for how and where people are buried. There is a difference between being buried at Arlington, or Baghdad North. So is the burial in National Cemetary honoring their service or their entire lives? Does a mistake committed later in life negate the good that was done earlier?

But then... I'm someone who hates to draw bright lines over murky swamps.

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