The Freedom to Grieve

The New York Times reports, on October 17, that a passenger onboard a Delta flight was told she could not sing the national anthem. Dr. Pamela Gaudry who is an obstetrician-gynecologist from Georgia, boarded a flight which was carrying a fallen soldier back home. The soldier was Army Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, one of the four soldiers killed in Niger last month.

Upon touching down the passengers were asked for a moment of silence as the soldier was delivered to his family. Gaudry felt a personal connection to this soldier and his family. She had been the wife of a navy captain who also died in the line of duty. Feeling “inspired” to sing the Star Spangled Banner, she and a few other passenger sought to honor the fallen hero. But once passengers started to sing, they were told by Delta flight attendants, to stop. Delta’s reason being that it was apparently against their policy.

American citizens should have a great deal of respect for our soldiers who risk their lives, everyday, so we may live ours. And it’s always extremely heartbreaking when passengers on flights are told the plane is carrying a fallen soldier.

It’s hard to imagine putting yourself in the shoes of someone who has lost a loved one overseas. Unfortunately, it’s not as rare as it should be. That being said, I do not see what is wrong with singing the national anthem in honor of a soldier. Yes, I agree a moment of silence is a sign of respect. But I do not see a problem with allowing passengers to sing our country’s anthem either. Sergeant Wright fought and died for the U.S. so how could singing this country’s national song be against policies? This is a matter of free speech.

Personally, I believe people should be able to grieve in whichever way they see fit. And they should also be able to honor someone as they see fit. Given Gaudry’s particular position it is not surprising that she would feel a personal connection to Sergeant Wright. Her husband having died in the line of duty puts Gaudry in the position to understand the Sergeant’s family and their grief. If Gaudry wanted to honor the fallen soldier by singing the national anthem that should be within her right to do so. If she wanted to grieve for his family she should be able to do so. The First Amendment protects speech and this is an example of what speech should remain protected. If we restrict what someone can say to express their grief is that not like restricting what someone can say when they express another emotion, i.e. being happy, angry, etc.?

See the video Gaudry recorded about her experience here.



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