Recently I heard a caller to a local radio talk show say that Christopher Michael Hodges deserved a funeral procession with the same honor and attention that the community was giving James D. Paugh, the police officer he killed.
I also have read many comments on The Augusta Chronicle’s online boards that talked about Hodges as a victim, a hero and deserving of military honors for his service. His girlfriend, in an interview on television station WJBF, said she didn’t want the community to judge him by this one act, and to remember his Army service.
As a combat veteran and the parent of a police officer who worked with J.D. Paugh, I wanted to offer my opinion. There are some acts that define a person forever. Murder is one of them.
To put this into perspective, what if Hodges did not commit suicide but instead was arrested after the murder? He would have had a trial where he could have entered all his excuses: post-traumatic stress disorder (though his girlfriend denied he had it), alcohol dependence, temporary insanity, etc. He would have been found guilty and probably sentenced to death. He would have been dishonorably discharged from the Army, thus denying him military honors at his funeral.
Would the community think it appropriate to honor him after his execution? Then why would we honor him now? I am sure his family is grieving his untimely death and hopefully ashamed of his actions. But military burial honors and equating his life with the life of J.D. Paugh are simply not appropriate.
Hodges is facing the only One who can adequately judge his actions and life. Let’s leave him and his memory in God’s hands. May God have mercy on his soul.
Gary J. Heffner