ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Flags will be lowered in New Jersey Saturday, the day of Whitney Houston’s funeral. But a Marine mom in Arlington says it’s an honor Houston doesn’t deserve.
When Phyllis McGeath heard Gov. Chris Christie had ordered flags lowered to half-staff for Houston, she said she felt a pain deep inside her.
“I was hurt and offended. Disappointed. Saddened,” she said. “I felt like the honor that was given to my son was tarnished.”
McGeath had three sons who were active duty Marines.
Her oldest, Philip, was killed by a suicide bomber just four weeks ago in Afghanistan. He was 25.
“They killed my son.They took his body away from me,” she said, overcome by emotion.
Arizona, the McGeath’s former home state, lowered their flags in his honor.
“That honor meant a lot to me,” McGeath said.
McGeath says Houston is not deserving of that same honor.
“Nothing against Ms. Houston because she was a beautiful singer and I was a fan for years,” McGeath said.
But, “It was like putting them on the same level. And I know how my son lived. And I know through the media how Ms. Houston lived,” she said.
New Jersey’s Governor, Chris Christie, defended his decision to lower the flags in his state saying he wasn’t honoring Houston as a role model but as “a daughter of New Jersey.”
Christie is a conservative Republican. He’s also a former U.S. Attorney who recently called for mandatory drug treatment for non-violent offenders. But he said Houston’s substance abuse issues shouldn’t negate her achievements.
“There but for the grace of God go I,” he said.
Federal law authorizes governors of American states to order flags lowered to half-staff for state officials or residents who’ve died.
There is no law or rule that requires the person being honored to have been a politician or a service member.
Christie approved a similar order when Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band member Clarence Clemons died last June.
Thinking about the recent death of her Marine son, McGeath said, “It frustrates me all the attention this one lady is being given for dying. When our son died, it was initially a one liner in the newspaper.”
Houston also sang the National Anthem in 1991 to returning Gulf War service members. But for Phyllis McGeath singing and fighting on the front lines are two very different things.
“My son gave his life,” she said. “He gave his life.”