Caisson connections?

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At Arlington National Cemetery this week, Marine Sgt. William Cahir got what Cpl. Ben Kopp of Rosemount couldn’t get: A horse-drawn caisson to take him to his final resting place.

Perhaps you recall the controversy caused when Kopp’s family was told they’d have to wait about three months for a full military funeral with caisson. There is a shortage of them at Arlington and the demand for them is too high. The Kopp family was told they’d have to wait until October to have a funeral, according to Stars and Stripes. Kopp’s mother called it “a slap in the face.”

Kopp was killed in Afghanistan in mid-July. Cahir was killed about two weeks ago, also in Afghanistan. Why was Cahir’s family able to get a caisson two weeks after he was killed, while Kopp’s family was told to wait three months? E-mail and phone calls to Arlington National Cemetery officials have not yet been returned.

Cahir was a high-profile hero. He was a former Washington-based reporter, ran for Congress, and was once an aide to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. The Washington Post said he “was no ordinary enlisted man.” He gave up a lot to go off to war. Journalists and politicians attended his funeral.

No less a hero, Ben Kopp probably fits the model of an enlisted man. A hard-working kid in high school, who loved football, and had — according to his friends – a great sense of right and wrong.

A New York Post article on the Kopp controversy last month said, ” Some have accused Arlington of playing favorites and allowing others to jump ahead of the line. Last month, retired Maj. Gen. David Wherley and his wife were buried in Arlington — complete with an F-16 jet flyover — a week after they died in June’s DC commuter train crash.”

Update 8:03 p.m. David Foster, public affairs spokesman for Arlington National Cemetery sent this explanation:


Arlington National Ceremony works in conjunction with the Military District of Washington National Capitol Region. ANC verifies eligibility requirements and performs burial services. MDWNCR provides the personnel from the respective military service for body bearers, firing party, caisson, etc.

There are on average 27-30 burials performed each weekday at ANC. At the time of the burial service of CPL Kopp the cemetery was performing burials at 9 and 11 am, and at 1 and 3 pm. The Kopp family’s concern and accounting of the delay is justified and one in which the Army agreed with and worked to solve. Our nation’s fallen deserve the most timely, respectful burial we can provide. ANC and MDW reviewed the resources available and added a 3:45 time to the aforementioned schedule so SGT Cahir’s service could take place in a more timely manner. We will continue to do our very best to meet the desires of families of our nation’s fallen and sincerely appreciate their sacrifice.

  • John P.

    We like to think we live in an egaltarian society, and we mostly do, but the rich and well connected still get favored treatment.

  • steve

    Check out Salon.com Mark Benjamin’s extensive reporting on the mess at Arlington Nation Cemetery. THis is small in comparison, a symptom of a national disgrace and needs broad coverage.

  • Jim!!!

    I’m not a veteran, but I’ll go on record that I want my body transported in a red Radio Flier.

  • alkjdf

    Sad when you have to be killed in Afghanistan to use your connections? It doesn’t add up Bob. Kopp should have gotten his funeral but you diminish the sacrifice Bill Cahir made in your posting. Read up on Bill Cahir, Bob, its a great story with a truly sad ending. For an editor, you didn’t do your homework.

  • Bob Collins

    //l but you diminish the sacrifice Bill Cahir made in your posting

    Not at all, actually. I diminish the administration of Arlington. Although I suspected someone would claim pointing out the double standard would do that.

    //For an editor, you didn’t do your homework.

    In what way? As near as I can tell, everything I’ve written is correct. I’m well aware of Mr. Cahir’s considerable sacrifice and pedigree (you’ll note I provided links to that very information). But if you’re suggesting that his background makes him more suitable for a caisson than Mr. Kopp, I just can’t get to that place.

    They are all heroes and deserve the fullest honor and we need to do more than just utter words like “support our troops” and your assertion — written under a phony name and an phony email address is intended to derail otherwise intelligent discourse with the old practice of suggesting a lack of patriotism or appreciation for their sacrifice.

    That’s no way to use their memory or sacrifice.

  • Mnguy

    This story reflects other disgraceful things that veterans have endured: the scandal at Walter Reed hospital, lack of treatment for PSD, and the uneven benefits given to National Guard units. The chicken hawks who started the wars in Iraq & Afganistan have failed to provide for veterans even as they wrap themselves in the flag and utter empty words of support. This stuff is outrageous but we are desensitized and cannot summon the anger this deserves. Call it battle fatigue.