A U.S. Army soldier from the Louisiana National Guard who was killed in a helicopter crash with 10 others off the coast of Florida has been denied burial at Arlington National Cemetery because he was not on active duty at the time of his death.
A spokesman for the Louisiana National Guard confirmed Friday to Fox News that Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, 26, of Baton Rouge, La. had been turned away from Arlington. A Pentagon source told Fox it was “due to his duty status at the time of the crash.”
A U.S. Army spokeswoman said in a statement that while Florich is eligible to receive military honors and inurnment, "he does not meet the requirements for burial in Arlington National Cemetery."
Florich was the flight mechanic aboard the Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter when it crashed March 11 in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida panhandle about 50 miles east of Pensacola. 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.”
Schneider said Florich had been a member of the Guard for eight years and had not deployed overseas.
Secretary of the Army John McHugh could make an exception and waive the current eligibility rules, according to a senior U.S. official.
One of the Marines involved in the crash, Sgt. Andrew Seif, who had recently been awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor, 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).