|Changes sought for Ohio, Kentucky. unmarked vets' graves|
|Written by Associated Press|
|Saturday, 20 July 2013 07:24|
CINCINNATI (AP) — Federal policy is preventing some veterans with unmarked graves from getting headstones and tombstones to mark their final resting places, and some supporters of historic cemeteries want that changed.
Supporters in Ohio and Kentucky are among those who want to change a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs policy they say is too restrictive, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The federal regulation defines "applicant" as the veteran's next of kin, a person authorized in writing by the next of kin or a representative authorized in writing by the veteran. But members of historical groups and those working to preserve Civil War-era cemeteries say the policy wasn't consistently enforced until last year. Some seeking to get markers for veterans' unmarked graves say they've been turned down because they weren't direct descendants, the newspaper said.
A national campaign to change the policy has launched an online petition asking that the VA make the regulation inapplicable to veterans who served more than 62 years ago. The petition collected 1,950 signatures as of Thursday, the newspaper reported.
"This is having an impact all across America," said Jeff Richman, leader of a committee behind the petition. Richman is the historian for Green-Wood Cemetery in a Brooklyn, N.Y. It contains graves of 3,300 Civil War veterans.
Richman said the policy creates an impossible and unnecessary burden for groups seeking to honor veterans who served generations ago.
U.S. Rep. Steven Stivers, R-Ohio, also has introduced legislation to change the policy. His proposal would allow anyone to apply for a marker or headstone if no next of kin can be found for a veteran who served on active duty in the Armed Forces at least 62 years before the date on which the marker is requested. For more recent veterans, the legislation would allow an application to be filed by a state veterans service agency, military researchers, local historians, genealogists, or others familiar with research sources or methods needed to prove a veteran's identity.
The Enquirer reported that the VA's National Cemetery Administration says the agency understands the concern that the definition of an applicant for a marker may be "too limiting" and is reviewing the regulation.
VA spokeswoman Jo Schuda said Friday that there have been instances of well-meaning individuals and organizations taking action to mark graves or replace headstones without family members' knowledge. The current policy was intended to avoid the possibility of that happening, she said.
Among those lobbying to change the policy are supporters of Wesleyan Cemetery in Cincinnati.
Kathy Dahl, a retired naturalist with the Cincinnati Park Board, has been a leader in unsuccessful efforts by the city of Cincinnati and nearly a dozen historical groups and other organizations to get VA markers for six African-American Civil War veterans in unmarked graves at that cemetery. Genealogists and researchers looked for descendants, but could only find next of -kin for two, Dahl said.
The Sons of the American Revolution also want a marker or gravestone to mark the Wesleyan Cemetery plot for a Revolutionary War soldier.
Tom Honebrink, general manager of 142-year-old Highland Cemetery in Fort Mitchell, Ky., said there also are military graves there that remain unmarked.
"Nobody wants to see veterans' graves unmarked," he said.
Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 20 July 2013 07:27|
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