Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

Veterans Corner

August 26, 2012

SERVE Act needed to ensure military families have peace, respect at time of funeral

By Jim Vines | jim.helpingveterans@gmail.org

On July 19, legislation authored by U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) in April to protect military funerals from outside disruptions was passed by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives. Snowe introduced Sanctity of Eternal Rest for Veterans (SERVE) Act (S-815), which clearly defines the time and place for protests at military funerals and it provides remedies and increased penalties for violations of the law.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Snyder v. Phelps, involving the Snyder family and the Westboro Baptist Church, underscored the need for more definitive language in federal law guiding when and where disruptions at military funerals can take place, while still respecting the ability of a family to lay a lost loved one to rest.

The SERVE Act would increase the quiet time before and after military funeral services from 60 minutes to 120 minutes, increase from 300 feet to 500 feet the buffer zone around a military funeral service, increase from 150 feet to 300 feet the buffer around the access point to a funeral service area and increase criminal and civil penalties on violators.

There are 37 bipartisan cosponsors of this legislation in the U.S. Senate. Additionally, to date, 36 organizations including AmVets and VFW endorse the SERVE Act. This bill, tagged HR 1591, is still lingering in Congress in the House of Representatives, waiting for final approval and vote, in order to be sent to President Obama for signing.

Families of our military should only have to deal with the burial of their fallen loved one and not with protesters who would intrude upon this utmost solemn occasion. The disruption and protest rallies targeting military funerals dishonors the military service of those whose uniformed service has guaranteed the freedoms enjoyed by all citizens.

Losing a loved one is traumatic enough without also having to endure these protesters and their nasty signs and obnoxious behavior. Those who would use the First Amendment as both a shield and a sword need to have limits on such abuse.

The men and women of our military give their lives to protect us and American ideals. They put this country above everything else. The least we can do is to help their families have some peace during memorial services.

It is gratifying to know that those that “Protect and Serve” Parker and Palo Pinto counties devote their time to ensure that a fallen comrade is able to be laid to rest without any abuse by those that truly don’t understand their First Amendment limitations, in regards to respect for a fallen protector of their freedom. Please take the time to contact your Congressman or Senator voicing your feelings and concerns about the delays on this bill. God Bless our fallen soldiers and their families. Speak to you again next week.

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.

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