ND has no need for Senate billA bill introduced in March by U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, would ensure all veterans receive a proper burial.
By: Betsy Simon, The Dickinson Press
A bill introduced in March by U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, would ensure all veterans receive a proper burial.
Fortunately for Stark County, Leslie Ross, the county veterans’ service officer for four years, there is little need locally for U.S. Senate Bill 2244: Veterans Missing in America Act of 2012.
“I think this is an area that is too rural and too small-town for that. Everybody’s related to everybody, and I don’t think the communities would allow that to happen here,” she said. “I just don’t think many vets even know this goes on. I like to be informed about the veterans’ issues so I know about it, but I don’t think others know it’s a problem nationwide. I think if they knew, though, they would be outraged too.”
But neither Ladbury Funeral Service nor Stevenson Funeral Home in Dickinson could recall a time when they handled the unidentified remains of a local veteran.
“I don’t think that has ever happened here before, unless maybe they were vagrant, but then we wouldn’t have a clue unless we could locate a next of kin,” said Gary Ladbury, Ladbury Funeral Service director. “Otherwise, I guess, maybe we just would not know. If there is no next of kin, the coroner makes the decision to cremate and the county pays for it. Legally, we have to purchase grave space for situations like that.”
The bill, which was sent to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, directs the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs to help determine if remains are eligible for burial in a national cemetery and, if so, would require all funeral and burial costs be
Ross supports the bill, but doesn’t believe it will become law because similar legislation has been voted down.
“I think the bill has less than a 1 percent chance of passing, although you would have a hard time finding a veteran who would say that any unidentified or unclaimed remains should stay that way,” she said. “Veterans, if they ban together, can be a powerful group, but I don’t think this is about honor or respect. It’s about the all mighty dollar. I want to believe that vets would not stand idly by and let this happen, but I know there are some cities that have remains that have been unidentified for months, even years.
“Personally, I believe all veterans should be paid respect and receive VA help. But as the economy and funding wane, this bill has fallen every time. It takes time and collaboration on their part, but service organizations are working together to make sure veterans’ remains are brought home to where they are from.”