On a hot day in 1967, I was summoned to our headquarters and informed that I was to escort the remains of a dear friend and classmate at North Georgia College home to Lincolnton, Ga.
I did that and it was the most difficult and humbling assignment I had in my Army career. The most difficult part was not telling Hilda that I have come home with Bo, but the presentation of the United States flag to her at the graveside. I saw the pain she was suffering and I also saw the pride in her eyes, that she was at peace with Bo giving his life in service to this great nation.
That moment has been forever etched into my memory.
That act has been done many times over in the life of our great nation, and have much pity for the military officers who will present flags at the next funeral service for those who gave their all in service to this country.
In a few days, four funerals will be held for three soldiers and for one Marine. There will be soldiers and a Marine who will stand before the loved ones, the mother and dad, or wife, or all three, and he or she will present the flag of the United States of America, and will begin with these words, “On behalf of a grateful nation …”
I can see the hurt and the pain in the eyes of those loved ones at that moment. And they will wonder, “Really, a grateful nation? And we have been denied the death benefit?”
The United States of America does not have $150,000 for each family, a total of $600,000? And Secretary Hagel wanted to fly in his airplane to Dover Air Force Base to meet these soldiers and Marine, at a cost exceeding $600,000? Just about the most reprehensible thought that has ever occurred to me.
This was done so that a political party could blame another political party for failure to pass a budget. I believe that the secretary of defense, Hagel, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should resign, along with the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, and the chiefs of staff of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and the commandant of the Marine Corps.
Each of these, with the exceptions of the secretaries, has been in armed conflict as a commander and each has signed condolence letters to next of kin at the death of a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine. For them to not stand up and fight for this death benefit points to glaring lack of leadership in each of them. They should be ashamed of their lack of courage.
This great nation should demand each of them apologize to these hurting families.
Duane “Banjo” Davis, of Pelham, is a graduate of Cairo High School and North Georgia College. He served over 20 years in the Army as an Infantry officer and helicopter pilot. He has a farm in Grady County, and serves Southwest Georgia Farm Credit as chief appraiser.