State Dept Holds Memorial Service for Anne Smedinghoff

There was a memorial service held at the State Department today for Anne Smedinghoff.  According to Life After Jerusalem, the ceremony was closed to the press at her family’s request.  If you are part of the State Department community, you can watch it via BNET at or later on BNET’s Video-on-Demand archive.

Secretary Kerry:

For so many, there’s been a “there but for the grace of God go I” sentiment in how everyone saw in Anne’s idealism and her courage just a little bit of who we’d all like to be, and more than a little bit of a reminder that in this dangerous world that calls on foreign service professionals, the risks are always with us.
What I hope we can do this week is celebrate Anne’s life together. So this Thursday, May 2, I ask you to help remember Anne by joining me and Anne’s family – Tom, Mary Beth, Mark, Regina, and Joan – at a memorial service that will celebrate her and honor her ideals.”

There were others at the memorial with speaking parts but only the one by Tara Sonenshine, the outgoing Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has so far been posted online:

I’d like to thank Under Secretary Kennedy and Father Moretti for their moving words. I’d also like to extend a warm embrace to Anne’s family, friends, and colleagues; and to the mother of Kelly Hunt. Also to Steve Overman, Jeff Lodinsky, and the other U.S. civilians hurt in this incident; and to the families of the three servicemen just mentioned by Under Secretary Kennedy, who also lost their lives.

We have heard, and we will hear, much about Anne as a person. I want to talk about Anne as a member of the public diplomacy family.

You may read the text of the full remarks here. No photos or video appear to be available to the public for this memorial service.

Also just to note that Jeff Lodinsky was wounded in the Kunar suicide bombing incident last year, not the Zabul incident that killed Anne Smedinghoff.  This is the first time we’ve heard about Steve Overman. We don’t know if he was wounded in Kunar or in Zabul. We think he might be with USAID but could not get confirmation on that.


— DS







Wednesday InBox: Anne Smedinghoff – Department Memorial Service

Mail received on April 10 at 8:00 pm PST from an FSO:

I knew Anne well. I am sending you this as the Department has been actively recruiting her friends and coworkers to talk to the press or to write about her even while no Department memorial service will be held. Kabul held one, as did Caracas, and I understand the regional bureau did as well. Some posts voluntarily lowered flags to half mast, but no order was sent. I actually understand the flag issue, we don’t lower the flag for every member of the armed forces lost, and Ambassador Stevens, for whom we did lower the flag, was after all the personal representative of the President.

Friends of Anne have been in contact with AFSA to potentially hold a memorial this Friday in their space due to the failure of the Department to provide a time and space. I have to ask why the same Department that actively kept people from talking/writing about Ambassador Stevens even while publicly hailing him is taking this tack now.  I and others, have been bothered by what frankly seems like a blatant use of her story for unclear purposes. The fact that the details emerging are now very different from what was originally released, even accounting for the fog of the situation, is also bothersome.

Hoping you can broach the subject. Feel free to email me but I’d appreciate not being named, even by pen name.

An official memorial service at the State Department is not unheard of.  On September 11, 2009, Secretary Clinton delivered remarks at  a Memorial Service on 9/11 for Terrence Lee Barnich who was killed in Iraq.

On May 17, 2010, Secretary Clinton delivered remarks at a Memorial Service for State Department employees lost during the Haiti earthquake from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.

Most recently, at the US Embassy in Ankara, Secretary Kerry attended and delivered remarks at a Memorial Ceremony in Honor of Embassy Guard Mustafa Akarsu while he was on a trip there.

I understand there was a service on Monday at Dover that was kept private at the request of Ms. Smedinghoff’s family. I think her State Department family also needs a memorial service to collectively honor and remember her.


Update –– one of our readers was quick to note that all the memorial services mentioned happened well after the tragic events occurred. “This is so the family of the people who died can attend. As you might imagine, the Smedinghoff family is busy with their own services this week.”

That is an excellent point, of course. Thank you. I understand that people who are burdened with grief this week may not be thinking clearly beyond the here and now.  Perhaps the Casualty Office can put some information about any future plans for  a Department-wide memorial service in the  intranet?

Update 2 –  I have just been told that there will be a small memorial for Ms. Smedinghoff at FSI  tomorrow, Friday. There will also be a memorial service at AFSA tomorrow.  I don’t have the specific time for either one. Please contact or FSI directly for further details.

There is also an annual memorial ceremony on or around May 3 to honor the fallen during the year.  That is traditionally attended by the Secretary of State.