“The 82nd Airborne Division recently received a lot of feedback on our division’s policy for memorial ceremonies,” said Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, the division spokesman, in a statement to Army Times. “After careful consideration and consultation with specialists in this field of work, we will modify our memorial ceremony policy.”
In the future, all memorial ceremonies for soldiers who die by suicide will contain the following elements: prelude, posting of the colors, the national anthem, an invocation, a memorial tribute, readings, an address, memorial prayers, a silent tribute or roll call, music, benediction, the firing of volleys, and the sounding of taps, Buccino said in a statement.
Army Times first reported on April 24 that the 82nd Airborne’s leaders had decided to allow commanders to choose from two different kinds of ceremonies: The regular ceremony with the usual complement of military courtesies, and an alternate ceremony, created for soldiers who died by suicide and those who died by misconduct, that allows units to omit a handful of courtesies
Those courtesies include the final roll call, firing of volleys and sounding of taps, among others, according to a course of action decision slide provided to Army Times.
“The decision to allow for an alternate memorial ceremony in the event of paratrooper suicide was made in an attempt to reinforce the value of life and the reliance we place on one another,” Buccino said at the time. “This decision does not equate suicide with paratrooper misconduct.”
Feedback on social media was swift, with many arguing that troops who die by suicide should not be treated differently, especially if they were combat veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress.
An online poll of Army Times readers showed 85 percent of more than 2,200 respondents said memorial services should be the same regardless of the cause of death.
On Friday, Buccino said the feedback the division received was “powerful and greatly appreciated.”
“We are thankful for the continued conversation and ideas about how we can continue to fight for the preservation of life of our paratroopers,” he said. “Our original intent was to save lives — period. We believe this new adjustment to the Division’s policy will assist in meeting this intent.”
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.