Sergeant, United States Army
APOLOGIZES TO THE WIDOW OF A SOLDIER KILLED IN PANAMA
WASHINGTON, January 17, 1964 – The Secretary of the Army, Cyrus R. Vance, apologized today to a lonely widow who wanted to give her soldier husband, killed last week in Panama, a hero’s burial
The widow was charged a $25 fee for a final glimpse of her husband’s body before it was lowered into the grave.
In a letter to Mrs. Barbara Jiminez-Cruz released by the Army in Washington, Mr. Vance expressed “my apologies and my deepest sympathy for you and your children. I want you to know how sorry I am and I deeply regret that the lack of attention on the part of the Army caused you additional suffering following the tragic death of your husband,” he wrote.
Sergeant Luis Jiminez-Cruz, a native of Puerto Rico, was killed by a sniper in Panama a week ago. He was guarding a roadblock and had been given no ammunition for his rifle.
The only hono his wife could give him was a soldier’s burial in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.
She and her children, Michael, 6 years old, and Gina Marie, 2, arrived at Union Station here with the casket bearing her husband’s body. An honor guard took the casket to the cemetery, but the cemetery was not notified until two hours later that Mrs. Jiminez-Cruz had also arrived, the Army said.
She finally rushed to the cemetery, but arrived in time for only a last look at her husband’s body. She was charged a $25 fee to have the casket opened.
Fred L. Steuart, manager of one of the W. W. Chambers Funeral Homes in Washington defended the fee. He said it was standard in such cased, and that the family could recover it from the Army. An Army spokesman confirmed this.
Mr. Steuart said that he had spent two hours opening the casket, waiting for the family, and then restoring the casket covering. He said that his contract with the cemetery does not cover such services.
The Army said that Sergeant Jiminez-Cruz had been armed only with tear gas and a bayonet “because of the expectation that order could be restored without the use of rifle fire.”
“Standard riot control tactics,” the statement
continued, “call for the use of minimum force deemed necessary to protect
life and property in a particular situation.”
SEATTLE, Washington, April 2, 1964 – Mrs. Barbara Jiminez-Cruz stood with her two children, 2-year-old and 6, as the Army honored her late husband today.
Major General W. C. Garrison, chief of the 10th Corps at Fort Lawton, gave her the commendation ribbon with a medal pendant in honoring Staff Sergeant Luis Jiminez-Cruz for his heroism during the Panama crisis. He was killed January 10.
A few weeks ago, Mrs. Jiminez-Cruz was slighted at the burial of her husband in Arlington National Cemetery. Her treatment brought wide protests.
“Sergeant Jiminez was mortally wounded by sniper
fire”, the citation said. “His unexcelled concern for his men and
his demonstrated gallantry under fire reflect a great credit on himself
and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army.”
Posted: 5 January 2008 Updated: 14 January 2008