Douglas plans to attend funerals of all Vermont soldiers killed in action

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(Host) As the casualties from the war in Iraq mount, governors around the country are taking different approaches concerning their presence at funerals of soldiers who have been killed in the conflict. Governor Jim Douglas has attended all of the funerals of Vermont soldiers killed in Iraq. Douglas says he feels it’s very important for families who have lost a loved one in the war to understand how much the state of Vermont appreciates their service to the country.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Some governors, such as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack have chosen not to attend any of the funerals, while others such as New York Governor George Pataki have gone to just a few of these services.

Some of the governors who don’t go to the services say they don’t want to intrude on the family’s time of grief or draw attention away from the plight of the families. Others who do go say they feel they have a duty and responsibility to be with the families at this difficult time in their lives.

Governor Jim Douglas has made a decision to attend all of the funerals of Vermont soldiers killed in Iraq:

(Douglas) “I take my responsibility as commander in chief of our National Guard very seriously and feel that Vermont is a large family and as such we care about each other. We want to support members of our state’s family who are in grief. So I think it’s important to be there to show support.”

(Kinzel) Douglas, who has two sons in their 20s, says he often thinks about them when he attends the funerals.

(Douglas) “It certainly crosses my mind when I sit at those services, when I console the families of our soldiers who have given their lives. One of them is just a few weeks older that one of my sons. It certainly gives me pause to reflect on the loss that that family must be suffering. It’s hard for me to put myself in their place. No one can understand that level of loss, the magnitude of the grief they must feel or hasn’t been through that experience themselves. But I still think it’s important for me to reach out as the governor of our state and express condolence on behalf of all the people.”

(Kinzel) Douglas, who always talks to family members soon after they receive their tragic news, says this experience has proven to be, by far, the most difficult aspect of his job as governor.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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