WWII Humanist John Hormuth Honored at Arlington Cemetery
On July 25th, 2011, John Hormuth and his wife Mattie were interred at Arlington cemetery. John was a WWII pilot who earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart during over 100 sorties in the war. He was also a loving father and husband to his wife Mattie, who loved him, their 7 children, and her gardens.
The day was beautiful for the ceremony, with full military honors of a band, a caisson to carry their remains, and a military detail to fold the flag and fire volleys to lay them to rest. Over 30 friends and family, including great grandchildren, came from around the country to attend the service, share their sorrows, and cherish fond memories.
MAAF President Jason Torpy presided over the ceremony, giving honors from one foxhole atheist to another. The family received the following presentation with pictures and a transcript of the service: John and Mattie Hormuth, Arlington Cemetery, July 25th, 2011.
John and Mattie can be honored through visits to the site (64-6236). John joins several other foxhole atheists at Arlington Cemetery, including fellow WWII pilot John Henderson (54-4456), WWII POW leader Hans Kasten (60-95), and famous orator Colonel Robert Ingersoll (South/1820).
Arlington Lady escorted to family to offer official blessings
Unfortunately, the event did not go perfectly. The family is requesting action from the Arlington cemetery administration and the Army regarding religious intrusions into the event. The family requested a humanist headstone, a humanist speaker, no chaplain interaction, and specifically reiterated the importance of a nonreligious event on the day of the service. These requests were ignored by the assigned representative and by the Arlington Ladies who, as an official part of the ceremony, blessed the grieving family and provided a religious card as an official part of the service and, according to the lady, “on behalf of the chief of staff of the Army.” MAAF has requested comment from the assigned Arlington Lady and the Army, but inquiries have not yet been responded to.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has done well in making its policies clear. Arlington Cemetery, unlike other US military cemeteries, is under the direction of the Army rather than the Veterans Administration. The Chief of Staff of the Army should ensure that the Arlington Ladies are not praying on his behalf. The Army should ensure that Arlington National Cemetery includes religious content only at the request of the family and only under the supervision of the chaplains. MAAF applauds the care and dedication of the Arlington Ladies and other similar groups, but their care must not come at the cost of government-sponsored religious speech that is against a family’s wishes. MAAF hopes this can be a case in point to allow the Army to stand firm for families’ rights and ensure staff and volunteers work within the bounds of propriety during military ceremonies.