“Every flag-draped coffin represents a family that will never again share a moment with their spouse, child or sibling,” Sen. Lautenberg said. “We should honor – not hide – flag-draped coffins. They are a symbol of the respect, honor and dignity that our fallen heroes deserve.”
Sen. Lautenberg has long taken an active role in giving our fallen troops the honor and respect they deserve when returning from overseas action:
On June 21st, 2004, Sen. Lautenberg brought an amendment (Amdt no. 2191 to S.2400) for a vote on the Senate floor. Sen. Lautenberg’s amendment would have instructed the Department of Defense to work out a new protocol so that the media can respectfully cover the return to the U.S. of the heroes who have died abroad, while preserving the privacy of families.
Sen. Lautenberg authored an op-ed in the Huffington Post about flag draped coffins in August 2008.
Following internal conversations with the Obama administration on the policy prohibiting media access to the arrival of flag-draped military caskets from overseas, Sen. Lautenberg sent a letter on February 9, 2009 to the President expressing his concern for the policy and urging the new administration to revise the current policy and put in place a new protocol (the Senator’s letter is attached).
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush issued an executive order prohibiting media coverage of caskets returning to Dover, Delaware, the main arrival base for fallen soldiers. Although the executive order remained in place throughout the 1990s, the Clinton Administration did not enforce it, allowing photos of caskets periodically at Dover and consistently at Andrews Air Force Base. When sailors were killed on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen in 2000, President Clinton approved the distribution of photos of homecoming caskets arriving to Dover.
However, the open access policy changed in 2003 as the U.S. invasion of Iraq began with this Department of Defense directive making clear that no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein, Germany, airbase or Dover base will be open to the public. As a result, the American public was denied the opportunity to grieve and honor the sacrifice of more than 4,000 service men and women who died over the past five years.