Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Slogans at Cemeteries: tacky "tribute" to troops

The government furnished tombstones for fallen soldiers free of charge to families regardless of whether the soldier is buried at Arlington or elsewhere. Families of soldiers who have the honor of dying in Iraq are being provided an additional option of having government furnished gravestones engraved "Operation Enduring Freedom" or "Operation Iraqi Freedom" free of charge. Not everyone is happy about the policy [emphasis added]

The owner of the company that has been making gravestones for Arlington and other national cemeteries for nearly two decades is uncomfortable, too.

"It just seems a little brazen that that's put on stones," said Jeff Martell, owner of Granite Industries of Vermont. "It seems like it might be connected to politics."

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it isn't. "The headstone is not a PR purpose. It is to let the country know and the people that visit the cemetery know who served this country and made the country free for us," VA official Steve Muro said.

Since 1997, the government has been paying for virtually everything inscribed on the gravestones. Before that, families had to pay the gravestone makers separately for any inscription beyond the basics.

It wasn't until the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 that the department instructed national cemetery directors and funeral homes across the country to advise families of fallen soldiers and Marines that they could have operation names like "Enduring Freedom" or "Iraqi Freedom" included on the headstones.

VA officials say neither the Pentagon nor White House exerted any pressure to get families to include the operation names. They say families always had the option of including information like battle or operation names, but didn't always know it.

"It's just the right thing to do and it always has been, but it hasn't always been followed," said Dave Schettler, director of the VA's memorial programs service.

Virtually everything. . . I wonder if the goverment has/would pay for an inscription that protested the war in which a soldier died?

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