Monday, December 9, 2013
The Associated Press
CONCORD, N.H. - A Henniker woman whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2006 said Thursday that she is thankful that other families will be spared the worry she felt along with her grief during his funeral.
U.S. Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H., right, listens to Jean Durgin of Henniker, whose son Army Sgt. Russell Durgin was killed in Afghanistan, as she talks about legislation Bass sponsored, and President Obama signed this week, banning protests within 500 feet of military funerals Thursday in Concord, N.H.
The Associated Press
While there were no protesters at her son's funeral, Jean Durgin said she feared there would be because members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas had shown up at services for other soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At a news conference marking the signing of a bill to limit such disruptions, Durgin said it is incomprehensible that parents should have to worry about protesters when burying their children.
"I'm sorry that we need legislation to compel people to behave themselves," said Durgin, whose son Army Sgt. Russell Durgin died in June 2006.
"But as you know, we have many incidents in this country where people need sensitivity training. I would be glad to participate in that."
Durgin was joined by U.S. Rep. Charles Bass, who introduced legislation that was incorporated into a larger veterans bill President Obama signed into law this week.
The law increases the buffer around military funerals from 300 feet to 500 feet, and increases the buffer around access routes to a funeral service from 150 feet to 300 feet. It also creates harsher penalties for violators.
Bass sponsored the bill after members of the Kansas church protested at the 2007 funeral of Army Capt. Jonathan Grassbaugh of Hampstead, who was killed in Iraq. Church members believe that American military deaths are God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of gays and abortion.
"I believe that men and women who have fought and died for our country deserve the greatest dignity and respect, and their families deserve the ability to commemorate and grieve for their loved ones in peace," Bass said.