The Armstrong Elementary fourth-grader wants President Donald Trump to designate an official state funeral when the last World War II Medal of Honor winner dies. She recently started a petition at worldwar2salute.org to get his attention.
Under the guidelines of the White House “We the People” program, the executive branch is obligated to respond to any petition that gets more than 100,000 signatures. At last count, Rabel’s had already garnered more than 2,000.
While several generals have been honored with state funerals, there has never been one held for an individual enlisted soldier. Rabel’s petition calls for a state funeral in Washington D.C. to honor not only the last Medal of Honor winner, but also the 16 million men and women who served in the armed forces between 1941 and 1945.
“The generals weren’t the ones who won the war,” Rabel said. “It was everyone else who fought in it.”
The Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor, recognizes soldiers for specific acts of valor. Some 484 service men and women received the award for their actions during World War II. Only four of them are still living today.
Rabel first thought of the idea as she prepared for her godfather Walter Ehlers’ funeral in February 2014. Prior to his death, he was the oldest living World War II Medal of Honor winner, as well as the last one who’d earned it on D-Day.
“Before we were about to go to the funeral, I watched some state funerals (online) with my dad, and asked if they were going to do the same thing for my godfather,” she said.
State funerals are offered for every president. The most recent was for President Gerald Ford in 2006. Federal law also calls for a state funeral if a president-elect dies, though this has never happened. All other state funerals are decreed at the sole discretion of the president.
The last non-president to be given one was Gen. Douglass MacArthur in 1964. Rabel’s father Bill McNutt believes the time for another one is now.
“The country craves unity now, and this would be a nonpolitical way to teach an entire two or three generations about the greatest generation,” he said.
Bill, who served in the federal government under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, knew that getting Trump’s attention would be the biggest challenge. He and Rabel began the petition drive by assembling eight-person boards in other states.
Each member would then write letters to various media outlets to promote the cause. The timing of the letters would correspond with WWII anniversaries like Pearl Harbor Day and V-J Day.
Rabel also committed to writing a letter to each state chairman offering her assistance in any way.
“We think the best thing to do is to continue and try to organize in all 50 states,” Bill said. “Hopefully once it gets the president’s attention, he will agree with a 10-year-old girl from Texas.”