Thursday, January 13, 2011

State Dept has new memorial plaques for family members and local staff but ....

Will State run out of wall space if it includes the names of the victims of the 1983 US Embassy Lebanon bombing or the 1998 twin embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania?

AFSA News had this item in its latest issue of FSJ:

The Bureau of Human Resources unveiled two new plaques honoring those who have lost their lives overseas at the State Department Awards Ceremony on Nov. 3, 2010. A Locally Employed Staff plaque honors 19 individuals from countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia, Haiti and Pakistan, who lost their lives in the line of duty due to terrorism, in an act of heroism or in other compelling circumstances while serving the foreign affairs agencies. In honoring their sacrifice, the State Department testifies to the importance of locally employed staff in the United States’ ability to conduct diplomacy.

An Eligible Family Member plaque remembers those who have lost their lives due to terrorism, in an act of heroism or in other compelling circumstances while accompanying an employee serving overseas with a foreign affairs agency. In honoring the five individuals who lost their lives in Pakistan, Kenya and Haiti to terrorism, murder and natural disaster, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by our family members.

Both plaques, which cover the period from 1999 to the present, will be affixed to the wall in the C Street entrance of the department near AFSA’s Memorial Plaques honoring our fallen Foreign Service officers.

We are pleased with this development.  We have not seen the plaque but we hope that Laurence, Evan and Baptiste Wyllie who perished in the Haiti earthquake last year are in the EFM memorial.  

But one has to wonder -- if we are "honoring their sacrifice," why is there a cut-off period covering only 1999 and onwards? As far as we could tell, there was no notable terrorist attack on US diplomatic facilities in 1999.  But there was one big one in recent memory that shook our world. In 1998.

Will the State Dept run out of wall space if it includes the casualties from the the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, where 32 Kenyan and 8 Tanzanian USG employees were killed?  Or if the victims of the  1983 US Embassy Beirut bombing , all 32 Lebanese USG employees killed are included? 

12 American employees and family members were also killed in the twin embassy bombings.  8 of the 12 victims were memorialized in the AFSA Plaque.  But as it stands now, it appears that Julian "Jay" Bartley Jr., 20, a sophomore at the U.S. International University in Nairobi who was an intern at the US Embassy in Kenya and killed in the 1998 attack with his father, will not be in that EFM memorial.

Yes, these plaques serve as memorials to honor and remember our dead Foreign Service family members and our dead local employees, and their sacrifices but -- what are they saying to the living who had to bury their loved ones before 1999?

We, frankly, cannot understand the thinking that went behind this -- honoring some but not others by accident of their untimely death -- can you?

Updated 6/7/2011:

Here is what the Bureau of Human Resources Deputy Assistant Secretary Bob Manzanares wrote in response to a State mag letter on the plaques:
The committee that developed the criteria
for the plaques considered how far to go back
in time and decided to go back to just after
the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings. There is a
separate plaque for the employees who died there.
The committee did not go back further
because it would have had to go back to 1789
to provide complete equity, and no records of LE
Staff date that far back. The Cox Foundation
donated the money for the plaque and agreed
with its criteria, which are similar to those for
the Eligible Family Members plaque.




1 comment:

Becky said...

Agreed. They should all be there.