Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In The News - A Mother Challenges the Veterans Administration

I was reading through some news stories on Yahoo yesterday evening when I came across one that caught my interest entitled "Mom fights to be buried with soldier son".  Basically, the gist of the news story is that Denise Anderson wants to be buried with her son, Army Specialist Corey Shea who was killed in Iraq in November of 2008, at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne but the Veterans Administration denied her waiver as, under their policy, she has to die first in order to get the waiver.  Mrs. Anderson doesn't understand why her request can't be granted now so she is challenging the VA's burial policy with support from her congressman, Representative Barney Frank, and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

I have mixed feelings about this whole thing as, to be honest, I feel that our National Cemeteries weren't designed for entire families to be buried at but were reserved for those who served our country either as a member of the Armed Services, the spouse of a Service Member, or the one of the other eligible categories as outlined by the VA.   Knowing that my Mom dedicated a major portion of her life to the Air Force right alongside my father, I feel that it would only be right that she be allowed to be buried right alongside him had he chosen to be buried in a National Cemetery rather than a private one.  She earned that honor as have so many other spouses of Service members who have supported them and our country.  When my father retired from the Air Force after his 20+ years of service he was given a certificate of appreciation for his service and so was my mother as the country felt that her support of him was just as important as his service.  Military spouses are awesome people who are just as vital to this country as the men or women they are married to.

That's not to say that parents don't support their children when they join the military but a spouse or minor dependent is something entirely different  - at least in my mind.  I understand that Mrs. Anderson misses her son and that she loved him dearly but I also feel that if she had wanted to be buried next to him, knowing the rules of the VA and the National Cemeteries, that perhaps she should have buried him in a private cemetery and assured herself that she had a place next to him after she passes on.

Mrs. Anderson raised Corey as a single mother for his first 8 years of life, according to the article, and she said that losing him was "like losing a twin".  The article also quotes Mrs. Anderson as saying, "I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to take 'no' for an answer.  I shouldn't have to ask to be buried with my son."  Well, perhaps not but again, if she knew the rules of the cemetery where she was burying her son ahead of time then Mrs. Anderson would have realized that she didn't qualify for burial with her son.  She says that she's "embarrassed about having to challenge the VA for a chance to maintain, in death, the bond she and her son enjoyed in life" but I just have to wonder why she didn't think of this beforehand when making his burial arrangements.

 In the news article Senator John Kerry stated that "No mothers or fathers of a fallen soldier should have to worry about their child being buried alone" and I have to take exception to that.  Those fallen soldiers aren't buried alone - they are buried alongside others who have served their country and they are most certainly not alone.  Interment in a National Cemetery, the final resting place of those who served this country, is an honor as well as one of the benefits afforded to those who sacrificed in the defense of our nation.  National Cemeteries are not just burial grounds, they are shrines to the memories of those who served and commemorate their service to our country. 

I'm not unsympathetic to Mrs. Anderson and I am very, very sorry for her loss but I also am not unsympathetic to the many other Veterans or Active Duty Members of the Armed Forces who may someday wish to be interred at one of our National Cemeteries - cemeteries that do not have unlimited space and which should be reserved for those who served or their direct dependents.  At least that's my opinion.  What's yours?


  1. I agree with you. The women who support their men when they go to war play a vital role too. I mean, they stay strong while their loved one is out on war. I think it's okay if they were buried alongside their loved ones.

  2. I would not feel that he is "alone" when he is in the company of those other brave souls who served our country.

    I am very sorry for her loss, but agree she should have thought of her own wishes for burial next to her son. He could have been buried in a private cemetery.

  3. Anonymous8:34 AM EST

    Patti makes a good point about him not being alone...

  4. She knew the rules ahead of time. Sorry, lady. The answer is NO.

    Big hugs, honey...

  5. For the most part I agree with you. Perhaps the rule should be "one bonus body per customer". Don't put the VA in the position of having to decide, let the soldier indicate his/her wishes in advance just as they are required to make out their wills.

  6. I agree with you on this Linda. If she wants to be buried with him then it should be at a regular cemetery. This one is for those that have served their country.

    Have a terrific day. Big hug. :)

  7. I think it should be strictly for those that have served their countries. The family should make the choice of whether to honour the soldier in the military cemetary or being buried with family.

  8. i agree, if she wanted to be buried with him he should have been buried in a private cemetery.

    smiles, bee

  9. You're right...no question about it. She should've thought this through if she wanted to be buried with him. Personally, I don't see why all the fuss. Once she's dead, she'll be reunited with him anyhow and the body is just a formality, IMHO. :)

    Happy new year, Linda!

  10. Linda, as tragic as it is for a parent to lose their only child in any manner but especially in an act of war, and as much as I can sympathize -and empathize too with this lady -I agree with the logic you put forth here. And, as painful as all this is for her, she also should begin to think of others in the same predicament and how does the government then handle those cases too? If it's done for her, can we feasibly do the same for any other parent who requests being buried by their only child too?

  11. if she wanted to be buried with him she should have forfeited the FREE PLOT and planted him in a public cemetery.

    some people have the WORST entitlement metality.

    she needs to sit down and shut up.

  12. War cemetaries are not meant as family plots. I feel for the woman but she really hasn't thought this out has she? :(

  13. Totally agree with the argument you put out there Linda. She is grieving of course and I sympathize too, but if it means that much to her, then not burying her son in a Veteran's Cemetery was/is the right thing to do. If the law is changed, then spouses as well as parents will want this right too.


  14. Anonymous8:49 AM EST

    Grief can cloud rational thinking and I think that's the case here. If this challenge is successful it is going to create huge problems at VA cemeteries across the country. I can't help but think of all the young men buried at Arlington.

    What bothers me even more are the politicians jumping on the band wagon for no other reason than to capitalize on the publicity. It is shameful how situations like this are exploited for political gain.


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