VA Disrespecting Montana’s Legendary First Special Service Force
If you aren't aware of the history of the First Special Service Force here in Montana, you definitely will be glad that you look it up. These men are legends. If you talk with green berets, Navy SEALs, and others in special operations- they will give credit to these men for the development of modern military special operations.
I first got wind of this developing issue through the Devil's Brigade Chapter of the Special Forces Association (SFA). I'm lucky enough to be a life associate member of the SFA, and it is incredible to meet the living legends that comprise the chapter based here in Montana.
Apparently somebody at the VA wasn't busy enough processing claims for illegal aliens or helping out the hardworking men and women who work in our local VA healthcare clinics (sarcasm), so they decided to go out and strip some honorary medallions off of the grave markers of the veterans of the First Special Service Force (FSSF).
Hopefully somebody at the VA jumps on this and fixes this situation ASAP. Montana's US Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) is the first jumper out the door to take action. He fired off a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough this week.
Daines sent the letter following reports he received that the VA has directed medallions honoring World War II veterans who served in the First Special Service Force (FSSF) to be removed from headstones in VA cemeteries across Montana.
Senator Daines: For years, the Montanans who served in the FSSF and were buried at VA cemeteries in Montana were remembered for their special service with a medallion located on their headstone. However, now, the NCA – citing ‘long standing’ official policy that medallions are prohibited on VA purchased headstones – has ordered the removal of these symbolic medallions. The reasoning for this, as stated by the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) directive, is that such medallions would prevent preserving the appearance and facilitating the maintenance of said headstones. I, like many of Montana’s veterans and their families, find it outrageous that a small medallion would in any way diminish the appearance of a headstone or prevent maintenance. The application of this NCA directive reeks of bureaucratic excess that does nothing but cause more issues than it fixes.
Senator Daines is calling on the VA Secretary to rescind the current directive requiring the removal of these medallions.
Senator Daines: Additionally, in order to provide transparency to the many veterans demanding answers as to why service members headstones were defaced, I request that the National Cemetery Administration provide a briefing to Congress as to why this directive was given, why it appears to be selectively enforced, and what concrete steps will be taken to ensure such action does not occur again. Thank you for your attention to this matter and I look forward to your prompt response.
Read the full letter Daines sent to VA Secretary McDonough HERE.
By the way, here's some more info on the veteran featured in the Getty Images photo above:
Congress Holds Gold Medal Ceremony For First Special Service Force Members
LOOK: 20 photos of shipwrecks from WWI and WWII
Gallery Credit: Elias Sorich