Father of guardsman fighting for son's burial at Arlington National Cemetery

A father is fighting for his son's burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich was not on active duty when he was killed after a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in the Gulf of Mexico during a training exercise. FOX 5's Alexandra Limon has more.

A father is fighting for his son's burial at Arlington National Cemetery after he died while training and not on active duty in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in the Gulf of Mexico.

Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich was killed alongside seven Marines and three other National Guard members.

The 26-year-old was training and a spokesperson for Arlington National Cemetery said that while Florich doesn't qualify for interment, he does qualify for inurnment at the cemetery.

"My son will not grow old, my son will not retire, my son was 26," said Florich's father, Stephen, told FOX 5. "I wish we could just call this off and say, ‘Hey, how about you let me have my son back. He sees his unborn daughter when she's born ... and I will duck hunt with him and you keep your place at Arlington.' But I can't do that."

Florich's father is heartbroken, not only because the death of his son, but also because the family was told he doesn't qualify for ground burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

"I saw the video my son sent me the night before and it showed him training his Tier 1 Marines, and it showed him in an Army helicopter in uniform, and all of them died on the same mission," said Stephen. "That's pretty active to my family and I."

The family asked for an exception and has been turned down so far. Nearly three months after the crash, Staff Sgt. Florich has yet to be laid to rest.

A statement released by the Army said: "Since at the time of his death he was on active duty for training only, he therefore does not meet the well-established criteria for interment in Arlington National Cemetery. The family's request for an exception to policy was thoroughly reviewed in accordance with established protocols. The Army national military cemeteries executive director ?and the Arlington National cemetery advisory group unanimously agreed that the circumstances, while tragic, did not warrant displacing an otherwise eligible service member or veteran."

A spokesperson for Arlington National Cemetery said they have the strictest policy for who can be buried there and spaces will likely run out in 40 years.

"My son was killed in the line of duty," said Stephen Florich. "That should be stronger criteria for ground burial than retiring with full service. I wish my son could have retired."

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