Bush administration officials don't want Americans to see the coffins coming home from Iraq, but that doesn't mean that they're opposed to a little pro-war promotion once a soldier's body is in the ground. As the Associated Press is reporting, nearly all of the gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery for troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan are being inscribed with the names of the operations in which they served.
In times gone by, military gravestones usually referred only to the war in which the fallen soldier served. Now, at Pentagon expense, most gravestones are being marked with the inspiring, public relations-friendly titles -- Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom -- by which the military likes its campaigns to be known.
"It just seems a little brazen that that's put on stones," Jeff Martell, the owner of the Vermont company that makes gravestones for Arlington, told the AP. "It seems like it might be connected to politics."
Former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam, called the gravestone sloganeering "a little bit of glorified advertising." The Bush administration disagrees, saying that families have always had the option of including more than the basic information on gravestones, even if they didn't always know it. But as the AP notes, the Department of Veterans Affairs didn't instruct national cemetery directors and funeral homes across the country to advise families of fallen soldiers and Marines that they could have the campaign names placed on gravestones until after the Iraq war began.