Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Arlington Question

"Why wasn't he buried there?"

This is a question that I asked my Grandmother yesterday. "Why didn't you have Granddad buried at Arlington National Cemetery?"

Grandma is from another time, she was raised not to question "authority"

When my Grandfather died suddenly in 1975, the day after Christmas, Grandma probably didn't have any idea what to do. Sure, there were others around her to help make the arrangements, but she was the spouse. When she asked the funeral director the question about Arlington she was told "He doesn't qualify." She didn't pursue it, but tells me now that for many years she often thought of the wrong this must have been. Granddad was a decorated war hero, receiving many medals in WWII, shown in a post that I did this summer, including the Purple Heart. So, my question is "What are the qualifications, and have they changed?"

According to the Arlington National Cemetery website, the following is a portion of information on the general eligibility requirements for ground burial:

Establishing Eligibility
Eligibility for Interment (Ground Burial)

The persons specified below are eligible for ground burial in Arlington National Cemetery. The last period of active duty of former members of the Armed Forces must have ended honorably. Interment may be casketed or cremated remains.

a) Any active duty member of the Armed Forces (except those members serving on active duty for training only).
b) Any veteran who is retired from active military service with the Armed Forces.
c) Any veteran who is retired from the Reserves is eligible upon reaching age 60 and drawing retired pay; and who served a period of active duty (other than for training).
d) Any former member of the Armed Forces separated honorably prior to October 1, 1949 for medical reasons and who was rated at 30% or greater disabled effective on the day of discharge.
e) Any former member of the Armed Forces who has been awarded one of the following decorations:
Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross (Navy Cross or Air Force Cross)
Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Purple Heart

Now the question is, why on earth did the funeral director tell her he wasn't eligible? Of course, back in 1975 you couldn't run home and get on the Internet to find out more information, or get it on your cell phone as you can today. It is the funeral director's responsibility, even today, to contact Arlington and make necessary arrangements. It is clear to me that some questions either weren't asked, or necessary information was not provided. All Grandma can say to these questions is "I just don't know why that happened."

Now I'd like to know - has any "regular guy", who served in the military and was clearly due a burial at Arlington ever been removed from his burial of more than 30 years and then interred at Arlington? Sure, we've all heard stories of personnel buried overseas and moved, but what about someone who was buried by his family because they were told he wasn't eligible? Not only should he have been buried there, but my Grandmother as his widow who has never re-married all these years should also be eligible according to what I've read.

My last Tombstone Tuesday post was of my Grandfather's headstone. He's buried in a cemetery in the town where we lived at the time in Montgomery County Maryland. None of the family lives there any longer and there isn't any room in this cemetery for my Grandmother's burial. She will be buried elsewhere. Which isn't what she would prefer of course. Grandma will be 92 years old next month and I fear that time is of the essence at this point. Should I pursue moving him? My family agrees, but is it something that's done?

I've not yet contacted the cemetery to get information from them, but we plan to do that this week. Expect more about this story!

1 comment:

  1. Good luck on your quest, Cindy.

    I don't know the answers to your questions, but I do have a mother-in-law buried at Arlington, awaiting my father-in-law, who is the veteran. I have the sense that their arrangements were easier because they chose cremation, so that we didn't have to have the ceremony on a specific date, as they are quite busy with burials from the current conflict, along with those from older wars who are now dying. I hope you are successful....your grandfather certainly earned his place. Maybe a current funeral director (who would have an interest in getting your business) could help?