WASHINGTON D.C. (WVUE) - The Army announced it is making an exception to allow a Louisiana guardsman killed in a March helicopter crash to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Staff Sargent Thomas Florich was one of 11 service members killed when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a storm near Pensacola, FL.
Because he was on a training mission, his family's request for Florich to be buried at Arlington was denied by the cemetery's executive director.
An advisory panel upheld the decision after a subsequent review based on the cemetery's strict eligibility requirements.
After reviewing the Florich family's request, Secretary of the Army John McHugh agreed there was a "compelling justification for granting this request for an exception to ANC's interment eligibility criteria."
McHugh specifically noted that while Florich was training in his capacity as a member of the National Guard, others who were killed were considered to be on active duty and were therefore eligible for burial at Arlington without an exception to policy.
Those facts led him to reverse the Army's decision.
"When these service members tragically lose their lives while training side-by-side for the same mission in defense of our nation, it is fitting to afford them the same burial privileges," McHugh said.
McHugh is ordering a review of the code of federal regulations, which governs eligibility for burial at Arlington, to see if changes may be needed.
"Staff Sgt. Florich is clearly deserving of this honor and his nation's thanks," McHugh said.
Florich, of Fairfax County, Virginia, was based in Hammond. He is survived by his wife.