NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Tuesday July 25th 2017

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Stone wears slowly. Adapting regulations shouldn’t be as slow!

This photo of John Carpenter was likely taken some time in the 1860s so he has that characteristic stare that comes of having to keep your eyes open forever for long exposures.

This photo of John Carpenter was likely taken some time in the 1860s so he has that characteristic stare that comes of having to keep your eyes open forever for long exposures.

“The fall of dropping water wears away the Stone.”
– Lucretius c. 99 BC – c. 55 BC)*

By Sue Hunter Weir

120th in a Series

Finally. Veterans Affairs has proposed amending their regulations governing who may order markers for military veterans. Since 2011 Friends of the Cemetery has managed to replace or get new markers for eight veterans. Two of them were for veterans of the War of 1812, five were for Civil War veterans and one was for a veteran of the Spanish-American War. That doesn’t sound like many but given how restrictive the rules are it’s nothing short of miraculous.

Military veterans are entitled to have their graves marked by a government-issue marker. The markers are provided at no cost although the government is not responsible for setting the markers on graves. The markers are available in a variety of styles but we have chosen upright, marble markers, the style that was introduced during the Civil War.

Current regulations require that the request for a new or replacement marker come from the veteran’s next of kin or a representative of a next of kin. Since some of our veterans died 150 or so years ago, that’s not always an easy thing to do. In some cases, families made the request and we helped with the paperwork. In others, Tim McCall, one of our volunteers, has tracked down veterans’ descendants and gotten their permission. As it turns out that, as time-consuming as that is, it is relatively easy compared to some of the other regulations.

Last year we submitted eight applications. Seven of them were returned as incomplete. The reasons varied but most of them were rejected for small, and in some cases, impossible-to-fulfill reasons. The most baffling reason why an application was sent back is that we didn’t include a photo of an illegible marker so that the VA could make sure that the wording on the new marker would be the same as it was on the old. (If we had been able to make out the wording, we wouldn’t have been asking for a new marker in the first place.) Despite having an e-mail from a staff member saying that we did not have to submit military discharge papers for any veteran who has a marker that is broken or illegible, and therefore eligible to be replaced, we were told to provide them anyway. We’ve been asked to provide proof that the veterans who are buried in Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery are really buried there, and weren’t too surprised to find out that the fact that we have original burial permits for most of them was not sufficient proof. On and on it goes.

Apparently we were not alone. On October 1 2014, the VA proposed to revise some of its regulations including those that specify who is authorized to order a marker for a veteran and acknowledged that the “VA denied the requests for headstones or markers which has frustrated the efforts of individuals to ensure the unmarked graves of veterans, particularly those from historic eras, are appropriately marked.” During the three-months that the public was allowed to comment over 400 individuals and representatives of various groups supported the chance. Senator Al Franken was among those who commented in support of the change.

Once the changes go into effect we will be able to file applications for any of the veterans buried in Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery. Other hurdles (burial permits, discharge papers, etc.) are likely to continue for a while. But look for a lot of new markers in the next year or two.

* Titus Lucretius Carus c. 99 BC – c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher.

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