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?