Paratrooper Suicides in the 82nd Airborne May Receive Fewer Honors

Past and present Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, representing every conflict the division fought in, present a wreath at the division's annual memorial ceremony. (US Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew T. Alfano, 82nd)
Past and present Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, representing every conflict the division fought in, present a wreath at the division's annual memorial ceremony. (US Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew T. Alfano, 82nd)

Paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division who die suicide may not receive the same memorial honors as those guaranteed to non-suicide-related deaths in the Fort Bragg, North Carolina unit, according to an April memorandum clarifying elements mandatory for memorial ceremonies in the 82nd.

"It's not a change in policy; we just wanted to clarify the elements that are mandatory for a memorial in the event of a suicide," Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, spokesman for the 82nd Airborne, told Military.com.

Army Times first reported on the memo Wednesday.

According to Army Regulation 600-20, there are 13 honors that a memorial service may include: "Prelude, Posting of the Colors, National Anthem, Invocation, Memorial Tribute, Readings, Address, Memorial Prayers, Silent Tribute or Roll Call, Music, Benediction, Firing of Volleys, and Sounding of Taps," the regulation states.

Commanders are now required to give paratroopers who die by suicide nine of those honors.

"We wanted to bolster the Army regulation and add on to the Army regulation, so you are required to nine with the commanders given the flexibility to add the other four," Buccino said. "We feel like there may be instances where the command may not be comfortable doing the final four elements."

Commanders in the 82nd, however, are required to give the full 13 memorial honors to paratroopers who do not die by suicide.

"In the event of a fatality that is not the result of a suicide and not the result of, for example, misconduct ... the standard is you do all 13 in those cases," Buccino said. "You are required to."

The clarification was prompted, in part, by questions from commanders, Buccino said.

"I think there was some confusion as to what was required within the division," he said, adding that Maj. Gen. Erik Kurilla, commander of the 82nd Airborne, took a personal interest in ensuring the policy was clear.

"This is a point that Gen. Kurilla is very passionate about," Buccino said. "He just wanted to make it clear that he is very passionate about making sure that in the event of a paratrooper suicide, you get the full honors."

Buccino added that there are 13 memorial honors and "there is no standard for full honors."

"Certainly you do the nine and the commander has the option to do the final four," Buccino said. "I think that confirms the value that we place on life and the reliance on one another."

A unit memorial ceremony is conducted to provide an environment for the fallen paratrooper's fellow paratroopers to grieve, Buccino said.

"The full range of options are considered on a case-by-case basis and considerate of a paratroopers' full breadth of service," Buccino said in a follow-up email.

By comparison, a funeral service is conducted for the spiritual and emotional benefit of the fallen paratrooper's family, Buccino said.

"All fallen paratroopers are rendered full honors during a memorial service if so desired by the surviving family," he said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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