Koop Gives Up Right to Arlington Burial
Price, Joyce Howard, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop announced yesterday he has given up any right to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
"I do this without rancor and with an understanding of and respect for the special place that burial in Arlington has in the hearts of the American people," said Dr. Koop, 81, a retired pediatric surgeon, who never served in the armed forces.
"While I feel honored by the president's action in granting this waiver, I certainly do not want Congress to spend its valuable floor time, particularly in this short session, on this issue. There are so many critical issues that should be consuming the time of Congress that I hereby relinquish any claim to burial in Arlington Cemetery," Dr. Koop added.
Dr. Koop's statement came after veterans groups had protested the waiver, first reported Monday by The Washington Times.
Despite Dr. Koop's lack of military service, President Clinton in 1994 granted him a waiver to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, the most prestigious military cemetery. Interment in Arlington is usually reserved for long-serving veterans, those killed or wounded on active duty, or recipients of the nation's highest decorations.
The White House did not officially announce the waiver. The Times reported Monday that internal documents indicated the president overrode Army opposition and granted the burial waiver at a time when first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton had enlisted Dr. Koop to support her health care plan.
Military experts said they knew of no other cases in which a president awarded Arlington burial rights to a living non-veteran.
In his statement yesterday, the former surgeon general denounced the "speculation and inaccurate information reported in the media concerning the waiver granted to me by President Clinton."
"To accuse either me or the president of any `improper reward' for services rendered is untrue and offensive to me, and I am sure to the president," Dr. Koop said.
Rep. Terry Everett, chairman of a House Veterans' Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigation, which has been probing burial waivers at Arlington, had publicly called for Dr. Koop to relinquish his burial rights.
"In withdrawing his name for a burial reservation at Arlington, . . . Dr. Koop acted appropriately, and I welcome his decision," the Alabama Republican said. "I hope the White House will now follow through and officially withdraw the president's authorization of the Koop waiver."
White House spokesman Barry Toiv said of Dr. Koop's decision, "It's a shame that the Republican attack machine has hounded one of the nation's great public servants out of Arlington, where he deserves to be buried like surgeon generals before him."
Asked if all of Dr. Koop's predecessors are buried at Arlington, Mr. Toiv said he knows that at least one other particularly prominent one, Dr. Luther Terry, was granted a waiver to be buried there by President Reagan. Dr. Terry, who died in 1985, was the surgeon general who first linked cigarette smoking and lung cancer. He did that in 1964, and since then, cigarette labels have contained surgeon general's warnings. …