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Sacred Ground – Revisited

Last week, I blogged about the specter of marketing during church, funerals and wakes. A couple days later, I came across this, a tombstone concept that incorporates a video screen.

Last week, I blogged about the specter of marketing during church, funerals and wakes. A couple days later, I came across this, a tombstone concept that incorporates a video screen. I was sure the issue was dead at that point, but this morning I stumbled upon a story (I swear I’m not looking for this stuff) about military tombstones emblazoned with “slogans.”

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The slogans, it turns out, aren’t for Big Macs or long-distance phone cards.

They’re actually the official military operation names — like Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. (ABC.com, which used the headline “Troops’ Gravestones Have Pentagon Slogans,” may be guilty of a bit of drama (read: marketing) itself.) Nevertheless, there is news here. While families are supposed to be asked whether or not they want the operation names included, some, apparently, were not contacted.

Most families, however, appear to have OK’d the engravings — but the issue of where military branding ends and where private suffering begins hasn’t gone unnoticed. The owner of the company that’s been making US military tombstones for twenty years grumbled to ABC.com, “It seems like [the slogans] might be connected to politics.” The VA responded that, “The headstone is not a PR purpose.” Not entirely convinced, one former senator (and a former head of the VA) called the inscriptions “a little bit of glorified advertising.”

Is it advertising? According to the article, back in the 1980s the Pentagon began using themed operation names in the interest of generating public support for military operations. In turn, one could make an argument that the slogans are PR-driven. But military code names for operations have been around much longer than that. Though, admittedly, not all military slogans would be right for the somber medium of a tombstone: For instance, Operations Cornflakes (1945), Sand Flea (1989) and Slim Shady (2004). Not exactly sacred words – but still not advertising.

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