by LTC William D. Hewitt…….
When Americans join the military, they surrender their rights, even unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In return they have certain expectations. Their service will be used in vital efforts regarding national security. Should they be a casualty the nation would, as Abraham Lincoln said, “Care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” For those who gave their last full measure of devotion their remains would be honored and respected in perpetuity. All true if they are buried in Veterans Administration national overseas cemeteries and state-run veterans cemeteries. If they are buried in cemeteries run by the National Park Service, the opposite is true. In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania soldiers got “lost”. Recent FOIA requests resulted in as many as 101 Civil War soldiers being misplaced. Admitting to “so many discrepancies in the paperwork that this is the best we can tell you,” the Park Service has refused to treat veterans with respect. Trees are growing around headstones. POKEMON, that computer game, is encouraged in the cemetery where visitors can chase “ghosts” over the dead. Lastly 14 soldier’s graves go unmarked.
Veterans have two timeless duties: to make sure future service members are better than they were and to care for those already passed. After 6 years of working these issues with NPS, only the Department of the Interior can be relied on to fix them. The National Park Service is not interested.
It is time for the Nation to live up to Abraham Lincoln’s exhortation: “That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”
LTC William D. Hewitt, USA (Ret)