“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” reads John 15:13. (KJV)
As we observe Memorial Day, the bodies of as many as 60 veterans have reportedly been kept at the Los Angeles County morgue for as long as 18 months without receiving a proper burial. The coroner’s office said the bodies were unclaimed and they did not know how long they had been there, blaming the delay on the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Assistant director of Riverside National Cemetery, Cindy Van Bibber denied the delay was a result of the VA adding that between February and May 22, the VA was told of only one body being kept by the coroner, “and that person was buried.”
“In order for us to schedule an interment, the VA has to be notified that a body is in need of burial, she said.
Van Bibber said the bodies of 28 veterans at the morgue were finally moved Friday for burial to the Riverside National Cemetery, but it may take a while for all of the veterans to be buried.
Every Wednesday morning, Richard Burns, a Marine veteran goes to the Riverside National Cemetery and volunteers to lead memorial services for the unclaimed and often indigent vets.
“I think it’s incomprehensible,” said Burns. “It’s kind of sad that these people don’t get the proper care that they deserve. Even after death.”
Steve L. Muro, the VA undersecretary who oversees all 131 U.S. national cemeteries claims the VA has verified eligibility for burial at Riverside National Cemetery of 37 of the bodies.
“Whether they have called and scheduled the interments through the scheduling office,” Muro said, “I have not been able to verify that as of yet.”
Shameful doesn’t even begin to describe this, and yet it isn’t the first time something like this has happened.
The U.S. Air Force confirmed in December 2008 that the unclaimed remains of 274 U.S. service members were disposed of in a Virginia landfill between 2003 and 2008. Officials said the dumping was hidden from families who had given authorization for the remains to be disposed of in a respectful and dignified manner.
Both Pentagon and Air Force officials said that figuring out how many remains had been sent to the King George County, Va., landfill would take combing through the records of more than 6,300 troops.
According to military records, 976 fragments from 274 personnel were cremated, incinerated and dumped in the landfill. An additional 1,762 remains, which could not be DNA tested because of damage from explosions, were gathered from the battlefield and dumped in a similar manner.
Our nation is only as good as the honor it affords its fallen heroes. That said, and as a military veteran myself, it seems we are on the precipice of evil.