Letter: Orrin Hatch was not entitled to military honors at his funeral

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Pallbearers with the Utah Army National Guard fold the flag covering the casket of former U.S. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch following funeral services at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Institute of Religion in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 6, 2022. Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate and the longest-serving senator from Utah, died April 23 at age 88.

As a U.S. Army veteran, who served in Vietnam (1967-1968), I was offended to see the pictures in The Tribune of Orrin Hatch being honored by the military at his funeral. He did not deserve this honor. He could have served, like so many of his generation, but chose not to do so.

It does not bother me that the former senator did not serve in our Armed Forces, but he should not receive military honors he did not earn. This is akin to someone wearing military medals he/she does not deserve, and falls under the category of, “stolen valor.”

Department of Defense Instruction 4515.19 Policy 1.2, section b, states, without exception, that under United States Code, “a former member of Congress who is not a veteran is not entitled to military funeral honors.” Military officers associated with the funeral should have been aware of this regulation, and informed civilian funeral planners accordingly.

Even if military officers say they were following directions from Gov. Spencer Cox, as members of the National Guard they are still subject to Department of Defense regulations. A departmental investigation might clear up how military participation was approved, so that this does not occur again.

Orrin Hatch was entitled to law enforcement participation in his funeral as a former elected official of the state. This should have been sufficient to show respect in an exemplary manner.

Not every military veteran can receive a funeral like Orrin Hatch. Citizens do, however, have two opportunities to honor our service members, past and present, this month. Saturday, May 21, is Armed Forces Day. Then, Monday, May 30, is Memorial Day.

We must never forget that without our military, we would not be, “The land of the free, and home of the brave.”

Luciano S. Martinez, Murray

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