Cutting Military Funerals for Vets to Save Money?

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan published a column on the 28th of March, saying the U.S. military should do away with funeral honors, since “most veterans did nothing heroic” anyway.

“Both the federal government and the state government are broke. So why are we providing military funeral honors for all veterans?” he asked.

He then says that while he believes men and women who are killed in combat deserve full military honors, those who “spends a couple of years in the military” and then dies later on shouldn’t be worthy of the honor.

“Bear in mind that most veterans did nothing heroic,” he continued. “They served, and that’s laudable, but it hardly seems necessary to provide them all with military honors after they have died. In fact, it seems generous enough to provide veterans and their spouses with free space and headstones at a national cemetery.”

Mr. McClellan concludes that the government needs to cut “unnecessary” costs and military honors is a good place to start.

“We owe a lot to our veterans,” he wrote. “They might not have been heroes, but they served. I hope they join with me in considering this a final chance to serve their country. Let’s play taps for an unnecessary program.”

Not surprisingly, quite a few people are upset by this suggest.

Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft is exasperated that McClellan “‘has been spewing his liberal worldview in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for decades now” but apparently thinks the phrase “Most veterans did nothing heroic” is self-refuting, especially if you put it in boldface, which he does.

Over at The Blaze, Jason Howerton seems to vaguely disagree with McClellan but basically just rewrites his column as if it were a reported piece.

The proprietor of Weasel Zippers opines, “When it comes to crap like welfare, liberals don’t care what the cost is, but when it comes to honoring vets suddenly they’re deficit hawks. It’s absolutely pathetic.” He describes the columnist in unflattering scatological terms and encourages readers to email.

Commenters follow suit, calling McClellan names, questioning his manhood and patriotism, and wondering what this liberal so-and-so ever sacrificed. They apparently don’t have The Google. Bill McClellan is a Marine Corps veteran. He was drafted, which means his service began before 1973, but I haven’t been able to figure out whether he went to Vietnam. He started at the Post-Dispatch in 1980 after four years at two universities, spent some time as a crime reporter in Phoenix; and presumably at least two years in the Corps, so it’s possible.
Conservative radio host Dana Loesch considers McClellan a friend. She respectfully disagrees with his suggestion. Or, at least, she figures we should get rid of several programs that sound absurd on their face first. “Let’s cut that waste, see what’s left over, and then talk about military funerals. I think our men and women in uniform sacrifice enough already. They deserve the honor.”

Those are my sentiments as well, although I think McClellan makes a good case. Indeed, left out of my already generous excerpt above is his call for those who want to be buried with military honors to join local or national veterans’ associations to continue fellowship with those who’ve served and who provide such honors.

Further, character assassination and vitriol aside, I’m confused by the tone of the counter-arguments. McClellan is making an exceedingly conservative point: Honoring people who spent a couple of years in the military several decades ago with a flag, bugler, and honor guard is a nice thing to do. But, if we’re not willing to jack up taxes to raise money, we’ve got to cut out things that are merely nice to do, spending limited funds on those things that are essential.

As to the phrase that seems to be drawing all the venom —”Most veterans did nothing heroic” — a point that even those who were in the combat arms usually done consider themselves hero’s.  Most just say they “were doing their job.” They don’t see themselves as hero’s.

We’re at a point where we’re cutting services for the truly needy. We’re talking seriously about cutting back on healthcare for the elderly and for those who spent twenty years in the military.

As a counterpoint to Mr. McClellan I’ve included the following is a letter that AMVETS National Commander Cleve Geer wrote in response to Bill McClellan’s column, which focused on cutting military funeral honors in order for the government to save money.

“I am outraged and disappointed in the opinions expressed in your column that calls for the end of military funeral honors. As the leader of AMVETS, a Congressionally chartered veterans service organization, it is appalling that you suggest cutting funeral honors for military personnel in order for both the federal and state governments to save money.

Only 1 percent of Americans currently serve in the military and less than 7 percent of Americans are veterans.  For you to state that “most veterans did nothing heroic” is absurd. The mere fact that these men and women served in the Armed Forces proves that they are willing to sacrifice time, blood and their very lives for people like you, who they have never met. This in itself is heroic. Our veterans are the role models that children should be looking up to in today’s society. They have exhibited courage, whether behind a desk or in the midst of enemy fire; show that dedication to one’s country is more than demanding the government hand out benefits; and do not complain when the country turns their back and ignores their service, as with Vietnam veterans.

In fact, funeral honors for veterans should be protected in the coming days of spending reductions. Veterans have shed blood and sweat so that we may live in a free and prosperous country. To deny them the honor of being buried and celebrated because you believe they are not heroes shows just how unappreciated military service has become in our country.

Considering how little veterans ask for in return for their service, the least Americans and our government can do is provide them with a proper and honorable burial.

Veterans Supporting Veterans,
Cleve Greer
AMVETS National Commander:

“This is clearly a heated topic no matter what side of the conversation you look at.  I for one am more of the opinion that we should honor our veterans for the service that they have rendered, as opposed to simply giving them the boot. To measure whether an American is a “hero” or not because of his combat experience is crazy.  By serving our country and defending the rights and liberties that we all enjoy automatically qualifies you as a hero to me.”

3 thoughts on “Cutting Military Funerals for Vets to Save Money?

  1. Shame on you, Bill! you should know better. Since almost 50 percent of Americans are on the welfare rolls, as opposed to1 percent in the military, it seems welfare might be the place to start cut-backs, IF you are serious about saving money. IMHO, you have traded your honor for 15 mins of fame! Shame on you!

  2. I have never heard of you, and at this point, i am glad i have never had to pleasure of reading you column, why are you picking on the military as a way balance the budget? These people deserve all that we can give them. I am guessing that you were never in the military, as a exmarines wife, i find you article appalling.

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