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Ovation: Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Familes Act of 2012.

08/08/2012

Like most people, I hate funerals.  For me, the period of mourning leading up to a funeral service is particularly grueling time.  “Up North”, where I was raised, we called this occasion a “wake”.  In the South, it’s known as a “viewing”.  Whatever you choose to call it, this time is very important as it gives loved ones, friends and neighbors a chance to pay their last respects to the deceased without being present at the actual burial.  I think funerals often contain the saddest moments that any of us experience in our lifetimes.

It’s impossible for me to imagine the pain felt by anyone who has felt the hateful touch of a protest outside a funeral home.  I find this to be a most disgusting thing to do and think those who participate are rude, heartless and cruel.

Fortunately, the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 was signed into law on Monday.  The law provides a number of benefits to military personnel and includes new restrictions on protests of service member funerals.

“We have a moral sacred duty to our men and women in uniform.  The graves of our veterans are hallowed grounds.” – President Barack Obama

Under the new law, protests must be held at least three hundred feet from military funerals and are prohibited two hours before or after a service.  The new law counters a 2011 Supreme Court ruling which found that protests such as those by Westboro Baptist Church are protected under the First Amendment.

My Grandfather served in the Air Force during World War II and I have friends and acquaintances who have also served our country.  I believe they deserve gratitude and respect and the many new benefits provided as a result of the new law will have a huge impact on many of their lives.  But, when it comes to picketing funerals, I’m not sure the new law goes far enough.  Are dead civilians and the loved ones they leave behind not worthy of the same respect?

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9 Comments
  1. Those Westboro maniacs sicken me. How anyone could protest a funeral is beyond me. And I agree, it shouldn’t cover just military funerals, it should cover all funerals. I get that it’s protected by the Supreme Court under freedom of speech, but surely basic human decency should come before the First Amendment.

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  2. As a wife and a mother of service member I’d have to say that my son and husband put their life on the line so the Westboro church can protest and do so willingly why totally disagreeing with what the group is doing and stands for. They serve so we can voice our opinions without fear. As my husband once said “I’d proudly die for a protester’s right to burn the flag I serve. Why? Because I believe in the First Amendment so much I’ll put my life on the line for it. Freedom is allowing those you don’t like, those you find offensive, the rights you have. I don’t have to agree with what you say I will defend your right to say it.” That’s why we (as a military wife, and now a military mom, I feel I serve in my own way) serve and have for over 25 year as a family, we want freedom for all not just those who aren’t offensive or we agree with.

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    • Thank you for your excellent comment. I enjoyed hearing your point of view. I believe your family, and others like it, deserve the nation’s gratitude. Your choice to serve should be commended and appreciated by us all … including the disrespectful Phelps family. The additional benefits that the new law provides to your family are certainly well-deserved.

      In my family we often say “Just because you CAN do or say something doesn’t mean you SHOULD”. While the Westboro clan will still enjoy First Amendment protection under the new law, the families of fallen servicemen will be granted a short window of time and a few meters of space to grieve without the undignified glare of the Phelps family’s spotlight.

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      • Our country has always been good to us. We have always been well take care of by all you and are very thankful for it. It only makes us more proud to serve. For my family the country has been more that gracious and we are eternally grateful.

        I firmly agree with the adage just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. When I have left funerals to see the protests two things always struck me – the service member died for them too and what a small poor showing it was compared to those who came in respectful support, a sad puny pathetic display in comparison. What’s a screaming ant compared to majestic eagle?

        My concerns are for the service members who are now committing suicide at the rate of one a day. The concept of PTSD is becoming more accepted and treated but depression needs to be de-stigmatized too. For all the strength our service members show and give we need to let them know it’s okay to have weak moments too. That it’s the ability to acknowledge these moments, experience them together, and then move on is where true strength and heroism lies. We don’t expect our service members to swallow the pains they feel and they need to know if they don’t they still have our love and respect.

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        • Another excellent point. Unfortunately, the screaming ant gets far too much media attention. Therein, I suspect, lies the problem!

          I had no idea that the suicide rate for service members was so high. You’ve given us all more to think about. Thank you.

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          • Yes I think it was Time magazine that recently did a feature on the suicide rate among service members.

            As was pointed out to me when I took a journalism course what makes the news is the odd, the different, the strange, the unique – if it was a normal occurrence it wouldn’t be news. Westboro is the exception therefore it’s news.

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          • You’ve inspired me to learn more about PTSD. Thanks!

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          • I think the more who understand PTSD and depression after combat/service the better position we all will be in to help prevent the loss of service members to suicide. Pass on what you learn, the more who understand the better.

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  3. The concept of protesting at a funeral – no matter WHAT the reason – has always struck me as the most odious way of “expressing an opinion”. As if ANY grieving family needs to deal with such hatred!

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