February 14, 2013

City to Move Forward With VFW's Cemetery Proposal

The final resting spot for soldiers remains will be much closer to home thanks to a pending arrangement between the City of Memphis and the Wallace W. Gillespie Memorial Post #4958 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

VFW representatives were on hand at the February 7th meeting of the Memphis City Council to ask for consideration for the creation of a cemetery program for needy veterans.

Lloyd Erickson proposed the concept to the VFW membership. He and Stephenson presented the idea to the council, requesting the Memphis Cemetery earmark a small number of grave sites that could be used to bury veterans that have no other means for funeral services.

Stephenson proposed the city set aside as many as 25 sites for future use.

"These would only be used if the veteran did not have the resources to pay for the funeral," Stephenson stated. "This is simply for consideration for hardship cases."

The council was in favor of the proposal and noted research would begin on the creation of a policy to make the plots available.

"We need to insure these folks are taken care of," said Alderman Lucas Remley. "This is just one way we can say thank you to them for their service."

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs maintains 131 national cemeteries in 39 states (and Puerto Rico) as well as 33 soldier's lots and monument sites. That includes the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. The State of Missouri Veterans Commission maintains five cemeteries in the state, the closest of which is in Jacksonville, approximately 85 miles from Memphis.

Eligibility criteria is the same at the state veteran cemeteries as that for a national cemetery. Generally any veteran who was discharged from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable is eligible for burial in a national or state veterans cemetery.

Local veterans would be eligible for burial at the Missouri State Veteran's Cemetery in Jacksonville, but the VFW proposal would keep them closer to home.

"That is a pretty lengthy trip for loved ones to travel," said Memphis Mayor William Reckenberg, a veteran himself. "There's really no reason we cannot take care of these heroes ourselves, right here in the Memphis Cemetery."

The Veterans Administration offers burial allowances, partial reimbursements of an eligible Veteran's burial and funeral costs. When the cause of death is not service related, the reimbursements are generally in the form of a burial and funeral expense allowance, and a plot or interment allowance.

The city council informed the VFW representatives that these benefits would be reviewed and other funding avenues would be researched to help insure that any veteran unable to pay for funeral services would be taken care of.

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