A U.S. Army soldier from the Louisiana National Guard killed in a helicopter crash along with 10 others off the coast of Florida in March has been denied eligibility to be interned at Arlington National Cemetery, a spokesman for the Louisiana National Guard confirmed to Fox News.
Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, 26, of Baton Rouge, La. was the flight mechanic aboard the Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter when it crashed in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida panhandle near Eglin Air Force Base about 50 miles east of Pensacola on March 11. The area was under a fog advisory at the time.
“We filed an exception of policy to have Staff Sgt. Florich buried at Arlington according to the family’s wishes,” Col. Pete Schneider, spokesman for the Louisiana National Guard told Fox News. “We are appealing the denial. We are disappointed that the exception to policy was not approved.”
Col. Schneider said Staff Sgt. Florich had been a member of the Guard for eight years and had not deployed overseas.
The Secretary of the Army John McHugh could make an exception and waive the current eligibility rules, according to a senior U.S. official.
Florich’s family asked Arlington to receive their sons remains, but were told their son did not qualify because he was not on active duty orders at the time of the crash.
One of the Marines involved in the crash, Sgt. Andrew Seif, who had recently been awarded the nation’s third highest award for valor, the Silver Star, was buried at Arlington in April. The seven U.S. Marines aboard the helicopter were all active duty service members and part of Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC).