Parents seek burial with veteran children

Parents seek burial with veteran children

January 2nd, 2010 by Todd South in News

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis Gold Star Mother Rose Fitz would like to see legislation changed to allow mothers of veterans with no dependants to be buried with their son or daughter in the National Cemetery. Ms. Fitz's son, Rodney Fitz, was killed in 1982 while serving in the Navy.

It seems simple to Rose Fitz and other parents of deceased military veterans. Spouses and children can be buried with veterans in national cemeteries, so why not parents?

Mrs. Fitz lost her son nearly 28 years ago. Rodney Fitz was killed along with four other U.S. Navy divers in an underwater accident.

She buried her son in Chattanooga National Cemetery and picked up the pieces of a life left when a child is lost.

Time passed, but the loss didn't, and she looked for a way eventually to be with her son.

Her ex-husband is a veteran and plans to be buried in the Chattanooga National Cemetery. But she's excluded by current laws.

"The main reason is ... I love my son very much and I miss him terribly," Mrs. Fitz said.

A few months ago, she read in a newsletter of the American Gold Star Mothers that Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., had entered a resolution to change the law and allow parents to be buried with their children in national cemeteries if the veteran has no spouse or children to use the privilege.

"I'm hoping that this will pass because I would like very much to be buried here with my son," she said during a visit to his grave.

Joe Warren, father of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kristopher Cody Warren, remembers being told he could not be buried with his son at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, Ga.

Lance Cpl. Warren, of Gordon County, Ga., was killed in Iraq on Nov. 9, 2006, when a fellow Marine mistakenly shot him, according to newspaper archives.

"I never thought about it anymore," Mr. Warren said, but added that he'd still like to be buried beside his son if the legislation passes.

"Well, I just thought it would be nice to be right there with him forever. I have no idea why," he said. "I'd just like to be there with him."

Ruth Stonesifer is national president of American Gold Star Mothers, a 2,000-member organization of mothers whose children died while serving in the armed forces.

"I know that it has sparked a great deal of interest in the mothers that I know whose sons were not married," Ms. Stonesifer said in a telephone interview from the organization's Washington, D.C. headquarters.

Rep. Frank introduced the resolution in January 2009, but it has sat in committee since October.

Ms. Stonesifer said that, though she has not been contacted specifically about the bill, she believes there are concerns about the costs of additional burials.

Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., is the ranking member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs subcommittee, which controls funding for work in national cemeteries.

"Especially during this era of persistent conflict, where great sacrifices are being made, we should do all we can to accommodate the families of our combat veterans who are not married," he said in an e-mail.

Laura Herzog, spokeswoman for Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said that, though he is not a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, he will look at the legislation.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, did not respond to requests for comments.

Sen. Johnny Isakson R-Ga., said through a spokesman that he is studying the legislation.