President Trump signed legislation that guarantees a burial in Arlington National Cemetery to any prisoner of war or Medal of Honor recipient.
The legislation was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which Trump signed on December 20. Before this bill, prisoners of war and Medal of Honor recipients were “not entitled to full military honors by the grade of that veteran.” Burials with full military honors in the national cemetery were reserved for officers, warrant officers, senior noncommissioned officers, and those killed in action.
Service members beyond those ranks could still be buried in Arlington but would only receive minimum honors, which include a casket team, firing party, a bugler to play taps, and a chaplain. It does not include a horse-drawn caisson, a band, or marching element, according to Military.com.
This policy change opened the cemetery up to the more than 5,000 living prisoners of war and the 71 living recipients of the Medal of Honor. Not all of the servicemen will opt to be buried in the national cemetery.
Rep. Jimmy Panetta, a California Democrat, drafted the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to expand those guaranteed full honors at Arlington. When the amendment was approved, Panetta tweeted, “Full military honors ceremonies remind us of the service & valor demonstrated by those who have defended, protected, and sacrificed for freedom & democracy.”
Full military honors ceremonies remind us of the service & valor demonstrated by those who have defended, protected, and sacrificed for freedom & democracy. I am humbled & honored to introduce this bipartisan bill with my servicemember & veteran colleagues https://t.co/asD7Yqfttk
— Rep. Jimmy Panetta (@RepJimmyPanetta) February 6, 2019
Trump noted that he was very pleased with the version of the Defense Authorization Act that he signed, saying, “Wow! All of our priorities have made it into the final NDAA: Pay Raise for our Troops, Rebuilding our Military, Paid Parental Leave, Border Security, and Space Force! Congress — don’t delay this anymore! I will sign this historic defense legislation immediately!”
Wow! All of our priorities have made it into the final NDAA: Pay Raise for our Troops, Rebuilding our Military, Paid Parental Leave, Border Security, and Space Force! Congress – don’t delay this anymore! I will sign this historic defense legislation immediately!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2019
Trump has had a controversial relationship with prisoners of war after he mocked Sen. John McCain, who was held prisoner in Vietnam for more than five years, by saying he prefers soldiers who were not captured.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said during his 2016 presidential bid. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
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