Honor guardsman is fired for blessings


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Viking6
January 22, 2003, 04:07 PM
Curiouser and curiouser!


Honor guardsman is fired for blessings
Patrick Cubbage says he followed his training. A supervisor calls it a breach.
By David O'Reilly
Inquirer Staff Writer


GERALD S. WILLIAMS / Inquirer

Patrick Cubbage, at the veterans cemetery in Burlington County where he once worked, used to tell mourners: "God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America."


As a military honor guardsman, Patrick Cubbage had a simple message to the families of deceased veterans at graveside services.

"God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America," he would say as he presented a folded flag to them.

Because of that, Cubbage was fired in October from his job at the Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Burlington County, near McGuire Air Force Base.

He breached cemetery protocol, his supervisor said, by deviating from the script.

"No family member ever objected," Cubbage, 54, a Vietnam combat veteran, retired Philadelphia police officer, and former city bail commissioner, said in a recent interview at his Northeast Philadelphia home.

"They were always very grateful - and sometimes very moved. People would even grip my hand and say things like 'Thank you so much.' "

Cubbage said he found the blessing in training literature he got when he began working as a part-time guardsman at Doyle, making $16 an hour, in October 2001.

But Lt. Col. Roberta Niedt, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said Doyle - the state's largest veterans cemetery - has a "standard phrase [for the flag presentation] for each service."

Cubbage was dismissed not for the blessing, Niedt said, but for departing from the standard presentation protocol.

Cubbage insisted, however, that he was operating within the rules for honor guards. Opening a slender pamphlet that he said the cemetery gave him when he started, he turned to a page topped by the words Flag Presentation Protocol.

After Taps, it explains, the honor guard folds an American flag into a triangle, and a guardsman then steps before the appropriate family member.

Depending on the branch of service, the presenter next is to say such words as: "This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service," and then to hand the flag to the deceased's kin.

"If the next of kin has expressed a religious preference or belief," the instructions continue, "add: 'God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America.' "

"It doesn't say, 'You may add ...,' " Cubbage, an evangelical Christian who attends Calvary Chapel in Northeast Philadelphia, said as he tapped sternly at the pamphlet. "And I said it only if the family had a chapel service or had clergy at the grave."

Although a part-time employee at Doyle, he said, he typically worked from 25 to 35 hours a week, and he estimated that he participated in about 2,000 burial ceremonies last year. "I probably said the blessing 500 times."

But two of his fellow honor guardsmen complained in October, he said, and on Oct. 16 Iven Dumas, the cemetery's honor guard coordinator, ordered him to stop the blessings.

He said he protested, noting, "It's right in the manual." Dumas replied that the blessing could offend Jews and Muslims, he said, and should be used only when next of kin notify the cemetery office that they want a blessing.

"Jews and Muslims believe in God," Cubbage said he replied.

Dumas, he said, responded by handing him a copy of state regulations prohibiting "harassment or hostile environments" in the workplace.

Dumas declined to be interviewed and referred inquiries to Niedt's office.

On Oct. 24, Joan L. Edwards, affirmative-action officer for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, wrote to Dumas to clarify policy. Cubbage received a photocopy of the letter.

Government employees "must not engage in activities or expression that a reasonable observer would interpret as government endorsement ... of religion," she wrote.

Unless the next of kin expresses a religious preference "one way or another," she continued, "then, the protocol would be to omit the saying, 'God bless ...,' portion of the presentation. This is not optional."

Cubbage said he reluctantly stopped saying the blessing - until Oct. 31. That day, he said, "this funeral procession pulls in for a burial, and I see the 'fish' sign [a traditional symbol in Christianity] on the back of one of the cars."

"So, I start a conversation with the driver, who turns out to belong to Calvary Chapel. I asked him if the family would mind if I said the blessing. He said, 'Oh, they're very religious. I'm sure they'd welcome it.' "

The widow, who was in a wheelchair, bowed her head at the blessing, Cubbage recalled.

But one of the other guardsmen "practically ran to the office" to report him, he said.

He said Dumas called him into the office and demanded an explanation. He said he explained that a family friend had assured him they would welcome the blessing, but Dumas - citing Cubbage's "disregard for stated policy" - fired him that day.

"I was in shock. I'm still in shock," he said.

"I was proud to serve the veterans who have served us," said Cubbage, who in 2001 reenlisted in the New Jersey National Guard just so that he could be the first enlisted man to salute his son, Adam, when he became an Army officer.

Adam Cubbage is now a captain in the 108th Air Squadron - his father's unit in the Vietnam War.

"I just don't get it," Patrick Cubbage said of his firing. "When you give people that flag, you see them look into it and remember a whole time in their loved one's life. So why in God's name did they fire me? Because in God's name, they did fire me."

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Sisco
January 22, 2003, 06:01 PM
Not sure how to comment here. On one hand it looks like political correctness run amok. On the other he was asked not to do it yet persisted.
At somewhere vets do get a proper ceremony. My Father, a WWII vet passed away a year ago next month. He was a lifetime member of a local VFW post, memorial donations to that post were requested in lieu of flowers at the funeral.
The day of his funeral one guy from the post shows up with his M1 Garand, wearing blue jeans and a old BDU jacket. Seems everyone else was out of town that weekend. No taps were played, couldn't find the tape. Dad got a three shot salute and the pallbearers had to fold the flag.
Even though the post received a substantial sum in donations, my Mom never got so much as a thank you card. We don't know what they spent the money on.
The fellow that showed up was apologetic but all they had to do was contact us and let us know that no one was available and we could have had the local American Legion perform the ceremony. There were more than a few Legion members at the service that were upset too.
Sorry for rambling, but it still bugs me.

rbrowning
January 22, 2003, 10:19 PM
"Government employees "must not engage in activities or expression that a reasonable observer would interpret as government endorsement ... of religion," she wrote."

I am just a bit confussed by this. Does the various military branches still have Chaplins? Would that not be interepted as endorsement of religion? And do they still offer services for the living? Why not the dead?

And a funeral IS a religious service. If it wern't there would be no need to have it. That is the difference between a cemetary and a land fill. We value human life and most believe in some form of afterlife. As long as he isn't pushing one form of religion over another I think some dim witted, narrow minded vindictive beauraucrat is at work here.

StuporDave
January 22, 2003, 10:35 PM
I seem to remember a member of the Navy Honor Guard saying that blessing (or something very similar) to my Grandmother at my Grandfather's funeral about six months ago. Guess they need to fire him too.

My God, things are getting ridiculous in this country. (Oops! Sorry, said the "G" word)

Dave

jmbg29
January 22, 2003, 10:38 PM
New Jersey :rolleyes: :fire: :cuss:

Woodchuck
January 23, 2003, 12:37 AM
I think the article misspelled the supervisor's name. It should have been DumbAss not Dumas.

ed dixon
January 23, 2003, 01:10 AM
Even as an agnostic, I would not have been offended and probably would have been touched. Many other fitting words may also have been used. Hell, a hug may have provided even more comfort. The fact is the protocol wasn't his to set or change, and in persisting in doing so he let his ego supercede his function. He was wrong.

twoblink
January 23, 2003, 01:44 AM
First, let me just state the obvious;

We have criminals, burglars, thieves, rapists, car-jackings, murders...

But please, let us focus all our resources on the REAL criminals here, the honor guards. These men, who served their country without a batting of an eye, who would die a thousand deaths for their country; they are the EVIL that makes me hide at home at night.

If the wife complained, I would then understand; if not, these people need to GET A CLUE AND GET A LIFE!!! It is reading stuff like this that makes me not want to serve in the military :banghead:

I still remember reading an article about some WWII vets. There were something like 10 of them, all from the same squad I assume, they all promised come hell on a high horse, that when one of them died, that they would be buried together, and the remaining ones would be there for the funeral, NO MATTER WHAT. Well, at the funerals, no taps, nothing, they requested only the original squad be there, and rifle fire from the M1Garands were shot, as salute. Well, it seems that these WWII vets don't understand that firing of arms at that cemetary is illegal. Everytime this was done, no officers present would arrest WWII vets as they were at a funeral to bury one of their own. You know what the officers did?? Of course, took off their hats and saluted in silence. One of them even commented, "You want to arrest them? Come arrest them yourself! I'm not about to arrest the embodiment of what America stands for." Amen!

Vets, not criminals with 15 page rap-sheets, they are what you should warm your kids about... :barf:

pax
January 23, 2003, 02:00 AM
The fact is the protocol wasn't his to set or change, and in persisting in doing so he let his ego supercede his function. He was wrong.
Actually, it sounded to me as if he was going "by the book," and the supervisor was making it up as he went along.

Unless there's a new book?

Any which way, if his additional statement was against the rules, the rules should be changed to allow for it if the family has indicated that it would not be offensive, and if it doesn't offend the person tasked with doing the presentation.

"... or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," you know?

pax

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to my conscience, above all liberties. -- John Milton

ed dixon
January 23, 2003, 02:29 AM
A subordinate member of the honor guard seeking permission on his own from a non-family member because a car carried a fish symbol strikes you as "going by the book?" Again, I'm not in the least offended and there's little doubt the family appreciated it. But the decision was not his to make. I don't make the rules and neither does he. He is supposed to follow them though.

pax
January 23, 2003, 02:37 AM
"If the next of kin has expressed a religious preference or belief," the instructions continue, "add: 'God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America.' "
Did the next of kin express a religious preference or belief?

pax

I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone. -- Bill Cosby

jmbg29
January 23, 2003, 03:28 AM
A subordinate member of the honor guard seeking permission on his own from a non-family member because a car carried a fish symbol strikes you as "going by the book?" And some people don't believe me when I tell them that the East coast is a lost cause.

Remember kids...always be a good Nazi and only follow the "book" no matter what.

But one of the other guardsmen "practically ran to the office" to report him, he said.See? Good Nazi. Nice Nazi. Stay...sit...gggoooood Nazi.:fire: :fire: :fire:

Sean Smith
January 23, 2003, 09:21 AM
"If the next of kin has expressed a religious preference or belief," the instructions continue, "add: 'God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America.' "

"It doesn't say, 'You may add ...,' " Cubbage, an evangelical Christian who attends Calvary Chapel in Northeast Philadelphia, said as he tapped sternly at the pamphlet. "And I said it only if the family had a chapel service or had clergy at the grave."

Follow the rules, get fired. :rolleyes:

ed dixon
January 23, 2003, 10:07 AM
Funny how the word "Nazi" gets thrown around. If he were making a political or religious statement you didn't agree with, you'd say someone should have reported it. For the record, the guy who ran to the office was as immature in my book as the eager beaver who was so desperate to infuse some extra religion into a stranger's funeral the first chance he got. Both are probably Nazis and Commies and easterners and Papists and Viet Cong sympathizers and... :rolleyes: Maybe the east coast isn't lost... it's hiding.

Shootin' Buddy
January 23, 2003, 10:41 AM
Mommy! Mommy! Pat is saying God bless you again. You need to spank him. He's mean.

Where's a barf smily when you need one?

ZekeLuvs1911
January 23, 2003, 10:47 AM
This is a bunch of $^$%#%^##......God does exist...just look around and tell me that what we see everyday in nature was just a friggin accident!

CZ-75
January 23, 2003, 12:14 PM
This is a bunch of $^$%#%^##......God does exist...just look around and tell me that what we see everyday in nature was just a friggin accident!

Sorry, but that's ad hoc reasoning.

I see the same things and am unsure about it, esp. when you consider that worms and humans have many of the same genes with some genetic drift figured in.

Please, if you want to be religious, then simply be so, as a matter of faith, rather than try to concoct "proof" for errant souls such as myself.

That said, I am agnostic and could care less if this man invoked God's name at any family members funeral -- he believes in God and is trying to be sincere, which is what counts.

Furthermore, even Hindus and Buddhists would be untroubled by the mention of God, so aside from those folks who worship trees or the Concept of having no Supreme Being, the vast majority would be okay with what this man did.

Lastly, it says something about militant atheists that they wish to impose their beliefs (or lack thereof) onto everyone else. What it says is that they are insecure and intolerant. Do they expect to be converted by the religious? Do different opinions offend them?

It reeks of authoritarianism, really, that a group is so troubled by everyone elses' beliefs enough to enforce their belief in nothing (which is, in itself, a belief) upon others.

I would go on to say that I support School Prayer if that means a moment of silence for everyone to worship (OR NOT) as they choose, because this allows everyone to exercise their beliefs and values according to their conscience, OR NOT, and that the Government accepts and respects this. That they can do this is emblematic of a country that is tolerant, which is why I support the idea (considering that my personal beliefs render the idea meaningless).

4v50 Gary
January 23, 2003, 12:17 PM
They fired the wrong guardsman.

peteinct
January 23, 2003, 12:32 PM
Hi everyone, My father in law a WW2 marine was buried there. He wanted no part of a religious funeral specifically writing down not to have any priest there. (Bad experience in catholic school I think) If the attendant had said God bless my father in law would have got up and popped him in the nose. But if he could do that he wouldn't have needed the funeral. We had taps played and two uniformed marines presented the flag to my wife's mom, very moving.
The cemetary is administered by the state of New Jersey as a free service for Veterans and is a pretty nice site. I think the anti god thing is because it is a civil service setup. For vets worried about burial expenses it is a way to get a plot for himself and his spouse.
Speaking as a boss if an employee of mine did something I specifically asked him not to do I would not be happy. It smells to me there is more here then meets the eye. Where I work there is a guy who sometimes bursts into hymns in the lunch room. It gets annoying.
pete

Betty
January 23, 2003, 12:43 PM
Burlington County, New Jersey...

Why am I not surprised? I was born and raised there. It's the same county that made little kiddies go stand in the corner if they didn't recide the Pledge of Allegiance. :rolleyes:

Moved out of that state, and I'm never going back....

Missouri Mule
January 23, 2003, 01:02 PM
two words......"BULL PUCKY"! :fire:

Joe Demko
January 23, 2003, 01:17 PM
In the military, when I was there anyway, you did as you were told to do. As the illustrious Sgt. Staten once told me: "Boy, you ain't here to think." This guy was doing something his superior told him not to do. He got canned. I see no problem with it, especially in the quasi-military capacity in which he was employed.

one-shot-one
January 23, 2003, 01:18 PM
:rolleyes: ok i'll try this without throwing to much gasoline on the fire. i'm a christian, why must i be the one to make sure i don't offend anyone? if someone said to me rialan (don't figure to many of those are around to be offended!) bless you, i would not be offended! depending on my mood and timing i might laugh at them or witness to them or simply accept that they wanted to say something nice to me and let it go, but offended? no. this guy needs to contact jay seculo, he is a jewish christian lawyer who takes on these cases of christian bigotry. lets face it unless you live in a bubble (no offense to those that do) you are going to be offended. get over it, or grow some thicker skin!:p

MitchSchaft
January 23, 2003, 01:29 PM
How much you wanna bet they had other reasons not to like the guy and were looking for a reason to get rid of him. Maybe he was one of those guys who liked to do things on his own program without consulting anyone else. He was probably one of those "know-it-all brats" that people just couldn't stand. Doing things on his own.

444
January 23, 2003, 01:35 PM
""Government employees "must not engage in activities or expression that a reasonable observer would interpret as government endorsement ... of religion," she wrote."

Right, I hope that no US Vetern ever has to say the Pledge of Allegiance. That would be illegal, unethical, immoral.................

I pledge allegiance to the flag

Of the United States of America,

And to the Republic for which it stands,

One nation, UNDER GOD, indivisible,

With liberty and justice for all

444
January 23, 2003, 01:43 PM
Imagine the trouble former President Lincoln would have been in when he dedicated the veterns cemetary at Gettysburg Pennsylvania.

.............................It is rather for us to be here
dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these
honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which
they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly
resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this
nation UNDER GOD shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Eamonn Wright
January 23, 2003, 01:47 PM
It seems to me that he chose to follow a "pamphlet" given to him by the cemetary, and not the protocols of the Dept of Military & Veterans Affairs, who just happens to employ him. He was told what he could say, and what to refrain from saying, and he refused to follow orders from superiors. Case closed as far as I'm concerned.

That being said, I don't necessarily agree with the protocol, and the tattle-tail weenie who ran to the brass should be slapped down as well.

Archie
January 23, 2003, 02:09 PM
Have you noticed it's only Christians who violate the "church-state" thing? I've never read of a Muslim or Hindu or rhododendron worshipper fired for religious intolerance.

This is just another episode in the ongoing attempt to remove Christianity from the mainstream. The State of New Jersey and the administrators of the cemetary should be deeply ashamed of their narrow minded, prejudicial views. But they are not, and that makes them good democrats.

RobW
January 23, 2003, 02:32 PM
We are in the midst of a cultural war. I just don't understand that some "elitists" want to replace the culture that WAS the United States of America with something inferior.

Oh, oh, yes, I understand, that would make the "elite" invulnerable.

Advice for the elitists: study a little the French Revolution, Stalin, Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot...
and when you still feel comfortable, continue to drag the USA into the sewer.

Talking to members of different christian sects, I always laughed about their theories of "the antichrist" and "Armageddon". I don't know if I would laugh today.

bobs1066
January 23, 2003, 02:53 PM
Archie, do you think the guy would have been in the clear if he had been saying, "Allah be with you in your time of grief"?

Marko Kloos
January 23, 2003, 03:18 PM
Closed as OT.

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