Sociable

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Honoring a Hero...Remembering a Son, 1/2/87 - 11/22/06

Thanksgiving has always been a special time for our family. Melissa would start out early the night before preparing for our Thanksgiving feast for the next day. The boys were especially fond of Thanksgiving. Melissa would have special rolls for the boys, Ashton, Chandler and Heath as they watched the Macy’s Day parade. Our family had our own traditions just like any other family in America. We were a close, happy family of five and we looked forward to spending time with each other and our other relatives. It was going to be hard to not to have Heath with us this Thanksgiving or Christmas, but we were still looking forward to this special time of year. We had packaged his Christmas gifts and sent them to him in early November so he would have them in time for Christmas. We knew he would celebrate Thanksgiving with his Marine unit as we were with our family here at home.
It was Wednesday, November 22, 2006 and Melissa and I had dropped the boys off to school and Melissa and I looked forward to our day together as we began shopping for our Thanksgiving dinner on the next day. We stopped for breakfast at Bob Evans and were off shopping. We were having a great time together and our conversation would drift to thoughts of Heath. I was really hoping to receive a letter from him to share with our family and friends at our Thanksgiving table. You could not help but wonder how he was holding up. We were on our drive back home and it was a beautiful late fall day the temperatures were in the 60’s and it was sunny. Little did we know that as we were driving to our home, another vehicle was also traveling to our home and had been waiting for us.
We arrived home around noon and the first thing Melissa did was check the mail box. “No letter Scott”, I was bummed. I really wanted to hear from Heath. I was in the house for but a moment and Melissa was outside bringing in groceries when I heard her scream. I almost panicked as I knew something was terribly wrong. I thought some one was attacking her outside of our house and I began to run down the stairs. As I reached the bottom of the stairs Melissa was crying and saying the Marines were here. I could not make sense of what was happening as three Marines were standing in our front room. My head was spinning as I tried to make sense of the situation. One of the Marines, calmly asked me to sit down but I could not. I knew instantly and directly asked them is Heath dead. They said yes. The scream was these Marines approaching Melissa. For a split second she thought Heath was surprising us and was coming home for Thanksgiving, but Heath wasn’t with them and they said, please tell us you are not the mother of Pvt. Heath Warner. It was at that point that she screamed and collapsed dropping the groceries she had in hand. It was not just a scream, it was a scream that only comes from a heart being ripped apart….a scream deep within soul that would never stop.
In a flash our world as we had known it, stopped and our family was forever changed. I remember in my heart just crying out to God , No.
You cannot take our son. I had said to God over the years, I can handle anything but please do not take any of my children. But that fear had become my reality. A level of numbness and at the same time of heart wrenching pain that I could never imagine set in. Melissa and I were sitting in our front room crying, trying to make sense out of this, but all we could do was look at each other and say what do we do now. This new reality was hard. Our casualty support officers had paperwork we needed to complete and we were left to tell our other sons Ashton,7, and Chandler, 14, that their brother had been killed in the war. How do you do that? How do you break your child’s heart, knowing they will enter a level of pain that grief can only bring. A pain we have no control over that each of us would have to bear. But we had no choice, we had to do this. We decided we would let the boys finish the day out and we would tell them when they came home from school.
We went to pick up Ashton at Worley Elementary. He was in first grade and his teacher Mrs. Clevenger was a good friend of ours. As we entered the school, we notified the principal of our loss and we went to get Ashton. Their look of shock was the beginning of a community meeting the reality of war in a personal way. I had Ashton and Melissa told Mrs. Clevenger. I am sure Ashton sensed something was wrong, but we could not say it. We drove home as if nothing had happened and asked him how his day was. But as we pulled in the driveway and sat there for few minutes, we had to tell him as the Marines were in the house and family had begun to arrive. Melissa took over, and said “honey we need to talk to you about something before we go into the house”. You could see that look of dread on his face as Melissa told him, “We have bad news to tell you. Your brother was killed today in Iraq”. His response caught me off guard, as he responded by asking Melissa, “Is my brother an American Hero”, which she said “Yes, honey, your brother is an American Hero”. With that we went into the house and we began to receive guests as family, friends and neighbors came by to visit.
While we were waiting to go get Chandler, we received a phone call from our good friend Lynne Weisel. She said we needed to get to the middle school and pick Chandler up as Heath and Chandler’s friends had begun to receive the news and were texting each other. That was the last way I wanted Chandler to hear this. We arrived at the middle school and were met by the school principal and guidance counselor. Fortunately for us, the elementary school had called over and prepared them for what was happening. They took us over to the nursing station were we waited for Chandler. A few minutes later, Chandler came in and had the strangest look on his face as he was trying to figure out what was going on. Melissa shared the tragic news and he began to pound on the wall. We tried to comfort him the best we could but his heart was broken and long term sadness set in. He decided to stay for his wrestling practice, but I told his coach not to let him wrestle anyone because he would hurt them because he was so angry. Let me share some thoughts from brother Chandler who was an 8th grader.
“I’ll never forget the day my brother died. I woke up and had a normal morning and to tell you the truth my day seemed to be going better than usual. When I was eating breakfast, my mom and I were talking about my brother Heath…wondering what he was doing because he was in the United States Marine Corp and was in Iraq. So I came to school and was having a great day, but little did I know that was going to be my last good day for a very long time. It was the last period of the day and they called me to the office, so I knew something was going on. The school attendance lady told me to follow her to the nurse’s office. I walked in and saw my Mom and Dad standing there. A few seconds later my Mom said, “ Chandler something terrible happened to your brother. He was killed in Iraq today.” To tell you the truth, I cannot even remember what I did. I felt numb. That is all I really remember.”
The impact on Heath’s brother Ashton was also tremendous. He thinks of his brother all the time as we found a picture that Ashton drew. It is a picture of a grave marker and on it says…Heath Warner, my brother my hero was brave and strong.
I hung the American flag and the Marine Corp flag out on the front porch as I had done everyday we had good weather since Heath had left. I was proud of my son, his courage and honor and I told Melissa from that moment on Heath would receive a hero’s honor to the utmost that we could provide for him. November 22, 2006 was the saddest day of our lives.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Ulimate Desecration of Honor and in the end Honor is Restored by the Marines

It is early Sunday morning and I am still at a loss of how to put my arms around the events that took place at the disinterment of our son Heath.

I am going to break my thoughts in two sections, 1. The Ultimate Desecration of Honor and 2, Honor is Restored by the Marines.

The Ultimate Desecration of Honor

All I can say is please the following article by Mark Benjamin from www.salon.com

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/09/16/disinterment_arlington/index.html

Honor is Restored by the Marines

What ever honor was stolen from our son by the administration of Arlington National Cemetery it was restored by the Marines. Thank you Gunny Sgt. Dixon. What most of you do not know was four years ago, Gunny Sgt. Dixon was in charge of his first Honor Guard burial of Pvt, Heath Warner. He was faithful again to his Marine brother inspite of Arlington's resistance. Your placing the flag on Heath's casket after it was disinterned and placed on the flat bed truck was only the beginning. Your continued presence through the day was a comfort to Melissa and myself.

I will never forget how you stood with Melissa and I after Heath's remains were placed in a new casket, how you comforted Melissa. You placed each new dog tag before me as if it was a precious jewel and buried him again with the dignity and honor. I will treasure that flag like a priceless diamond. Actually, it is more precious than that...it is the blood, sweat and tears of freedom.

You watched the horrific events of the day and I know you will do the right thing with this information.

Semper Fi!

Scott

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Preview of a Segment of our Public Statement to be read at the Women's Memorial Today

The text Bekow is a preview of the public statement I eill be making today after the disinterment.

The Desecration of Honor Stops Today

Almost four years ago, I stood here at Arlington National Cemetery after burying my son, USMC Pvt. Heath Warner. It was our son’s wishes to be buried at Arlington and we considered it the highest honor we could give him - to be buried with his fallen heroes on these most hallowed grounds. I commented at the time, “The honor matched the grief”.

Today, I stand before you again and I state, “The desecration of honor at Arlington National Cemetery matches our anger and grief”. I cannot begin to state the many feelings my wife and I have as we are here to disinter the body of our son for positive identification as a result of Arlington’s negligence.

Today, Melissa and I stand before you and declare that the Desecration of Honor Stops Today - here and now. We want to be part of the solution that no other family should have to go through what our family has gone through.
This can only occur with Congressional support and action in the following areas:

1. Arlington National Cemetery is first and foremost a working cemetery. We are calling for a temporary cessation of all tourist operations at Arlington National Cemetery until the expanded Congressional investigation is concluded and the outstanding issues are resolved. All resources need to be directed to restoring the honor and dignity that has defined Arlington National Cemetery. Once this has occurred tourist operations will begin under new policy and procedures that maintain the integrity and dignity of our fallen heroes buried at the Cemetery.

2. The creation of a panel of family members that will provide an ongoing continuous feedback loop to the Superintendent/Executive Director of what is being done well and what is not satisfactory to the families of the Arlington National Cemetery community.

3. The investigation is expanded to include verification of all paperwork related to those buried at Arlington National Cemetery. I hold before you a form that in the letter we received from Kathryn Condon in which she reassured us had been double checked for accuracy, which is in fact incomplete and full of errors which have resulted in our exhuming our son for positive identification (see exhibit A).

4. We are asking for Congressional action which would allow the families that have to suffer from the pain and agony of living this nightmare as a result of Arlington National Cemetery’s negligence legal remedy against the United States Army and the Cemetery which would also allow for Memorial Markers to remain at their loved ones grave and a return of their bodies to the families choice of reburial. A trust has been broken and violated in which we believe our son would be better taken care of by the family, but still allows us to honor our son’s request to be honored at Arlington National Cemetery.

5. I have presented to Congressman Boccieri from the 16th District in Ohio, a summary report from a meeting of Gold Star parents from his district with recommendations for legislation which would help Gold Star families to deal with the long term consequences of war in order that we can move forward in our healing. I am asking senior Congressional leaders to review this document and allow families to testify before Congress of what life is like for a Gold Star Family in 2010 and the creation of a Gold Star Family Assistance and Protection Act.

Lastly, the Warner Family would like to say to the families across America who have lost loved ones and to those families who have brave men and women is service to the country – on behalf of a grateful Nation we thank you for your sacrifice and service. We honor your family and loved ones.

May God Bless You, May God Bless America and May God Bless and Protect our Service Men and Women.

Scott and Melissa Warner

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's late and we just got into DC

It's late but I wanted to drop a quick line about tomorrow.

Does it make sense to anyone why we are the drivers of identifying Heath's body? Let's face it, having to have him disinterned is hard enough. I guess Arlington has not learned that there are other methods of identification such as a third party DNA forensic specialist? So tomorrow one of Heath's Marine friends and myself will be doing the verification. Orginally, we were to be taken to a funeral home where a funeral director would open the casket, now we are doing it onsite at Arlington...because they needed a permit to move Heath. I wonder if the Arlington admonistration would treat their loved ones like they are treating Heath?

Another thing I question - is the grave compromised by digging it out tonight allowing the vault exposed....supposedly, unntouched until we arrive at 8 AM tomorrow morning. Interesting?

A prayer that keeps me focused right now is.....

Christ be with me. Christ before me. Christ behind me. Christ above me. Christ on my right. Christ on my left. Christ where I lie. Christ where I sit. Christ where I arise. Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me. Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me. Christ in every eye that sees me. Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Christ. May your salvation Oh Lord be ever with us.

Blessings to all.

Scott

From the Diary of a Mad White Man Part II

Yesterday Congressman Boccieri's office coordinated a conference call between Kathryn Condon, her legal counsel, Arlington's Superintendent and myself.

It was an absolutely contentious phone conference. Kathryn did her best to massage her prior conversations with me and would try to make things that she wanted were my suggestions. For the record, I did make statements countering her statements and at one point I told her she was a big fat liar and that what she was saying was not true and to prove it I had recorded the conversation.

In the end, we were finally to finalize the arrangements for the disinterment.

My observation is whatever administrative and leadership skills Kathryn Condon brings to the table for helping Arlington, she lacks the understanding of dealing with a bereaving family. These are not skills she can learn on the fly. My recommendation is they terminate her as fast as they can.

I have a busy day as we are getting ready to head out to Arlington. I will update my blog as this unfolds. God Bless, Scott

Thursday, September 9, 2010

From the Diary of A Mad White Man

Last night, I received a call from the Marine Casualty Officers in DC offering to be there on Wednesday for Heath's disinterment. They said they had just heard of what was taking place and wanted to honor Heath and support us anyway they could. The Marines contacted Arlington this morning and were told by Col Trybular at Arlington that the Marines were to only serve at the request of the Army at Arlington. He proceeded to state they were not requested and were not welcome to be there. I am getting smoking hot. I contacted Congressman Boccieri's office to see if they could help. This is just wrong. Here's Arlington's phone number 703-607-8175. I am counting on all my friends to call and let them have it...From the Diary of A Mad White Man...Scott

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

9/11 Remembered

The following is a 9/11 tribute that I wrote in 2007. It captured what I felt in my heart. I share this each year as my way of reflecting on the tragic events of 9/11 that forever changed my families lives. I hope it touches you in a special way.

9/11 Remembered

I remember 9/11 so vividly. The drive into work was picture perfect. I remember thinking what an awesome early fall day, sunny, warm, and the sky was brillian blue. As I sat at my desk with the radio on, I heard the announcer break in that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Centers.

I remember on 9/11, thinking maybe there was fog and a small Cessna had unfortunately lost course and crashed. Shortly thereafter, as a news reporter was interviewing an eye witness, there were screams as the second plane crashed into the second tower. Then, everything seemed to stop. Could it be terrorist? My employer sent us home and we were glued to the TV as the drama unfolded. Little did I know then that not only did the world change that day, but how dramatically and intimately it would change my family and life.

I remember on 9/11, that my son, Heath, would say he was going to fight for his country. I did not know then that he would lose his life fighting a war so his family could have a safer future.

I remember 9/11 as the day, he left to travel to this foreign field of battle, it would be the last day he would be alive on American soil. A day of last phone texts, last phone calls, and the day I began to endlessly worry about a son going to war.

I remember 9/11 as a bittersweet time of fond last memories and of the beginning of long-term pain and heartache.
I remember on 9/11, all the lives lost, the destruction, the end of a way of life America had known.

On 9/11, I pray that God will be with all the families that lost their special loved ones that day and with all the families of the brave men and women who have lost their lives fighting for our national security and freedom since then. May God give wisdom to our leaders that will lead us ultimately to a safer, free world.

God bless America, God bless you and may God bless our men and women serving our country.

Scott Warner

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Honor is from the Hero

Melissa and I were talking tonight. I said I do not know if I can go back to Arlington because it has lost the honor it once had to me. She was quick to remind me the honor is not defined by Arlington, the honor is derived from what our loved ones did, how they lived their lives and how they died. They were selfless heroes who thought of others first and gave their lives thinking of others. It is shameful what has happened at Arlington, but the honor does not rest on the administration or the employees. Whenever we remember the sacrifice of our son, the honor is still there. With that in mind, maybe I can find some peace in this miserable situation we now find ourselves in with Arlington administration.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Decision Has Been Made for the Disinterment of Pvt. Heath Warner at Arlington National Cemetery

A Decision Has Been Made


The last several weeks have been a challenging time for our family. In addition to the incomplete and inaccurate information on the Decedent Information form, Arlington records could not account for Heath's remains from the point he left Cleveland Hopkins Airport until he was held in storage at Arlington on December 11, 2006.

I was asked to rely on a verbal confirmation that his remains were held at a local funeral. When I asked for copies of the information from the funeral home, none could be provided. Based on this information, Melissa and asked the cemetery to move forward with Heath’s disinterment. With a positive identification and copies of the detailed funeral which would give account of the days preceding his burial on December 12, 2006, we will be able to find peace in this situation.

We have agonized with making this decision, but we have set the date of the disinterment with Arlington for Wednesday, 9/15/2010 at 8 AM.

What Have I Learned From This Experience

When I wrote my op-ed, Arlington National Cemetery - A Spectrum of Desecration, I had no clue that I would find myself in the situation of questioning were our son was buried. However, with the expanded investigation potentially impacting 4500 to 6600 graves, we decided for peace of mind, to ask Arlington to confirm his grave.

Moving forward I became vigilant in my pursuit for truth. Searching for truth requires a perseverance that I did not realize I had within me. I learned to see through rhetoric and pursue factual information. Holding the cemetery accountable for their poor records and exposing our story in a public forum has not been easy. We have asked Eric Mansfield from WKYC and Stan Meyers from the Canton Repository to cover Heath’s disinterment, as we believe it is important for American’s to see the reality of the Arlington’s negligence.

I am not looking forward to disinterring Heath's grave, but in the end this short term pain, will provide long term peace. To the families who have loved ones buried at Arlington, ask for hard copies of your loved ones records. Unless you ask, they will not send them to you and you will only receive a scripted response from the call center. Specifically, ask for the Decedent's Information sheet. I am confident that our records are not the only ones that are incomplete and inaccurate. We have been asked to settle for the errors as clerical mistakes and computer glitches. That is not acceptable.

We have decided to keep Heath buried at Arlington as this is what he would want. I am praying that it is Heath's body buried at his grave. By moving forward with his disinterment, I believe it is a big step forward for Arlington in restoring the honor and dignity that has been lost. If our perseverance helps others, then the pain we have suffered will be worth it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Arlington National Cemetery - A Spectrum of Desecration - Update

This past weekend I received a packet from the executive director of Arlington National Cemetery. The packet contained the following information:
1. A letter from the executive director
2. Call Center Family Concern Form
3. Next of Kin Phone Call Return Script
4. Phone Call Return Script Voice Mail
5. Checklist from their investigation
6. Record of Internment 1
7. Record of Internment 2
8. Decedent Information Intake Form
9. 3 Photos of his grave stone

As I reviewed the records, essentially, they matched his name to a identification number. This number then was matched to the parcel, and the parcel was matched to the master map of the burial plots. At this point, all seemed in order, until I reviewed the Decedent Information Intake Form.

The form was dated 11/30/2006 and was partially completed. In addition, the form had major misinformation. Most alarming was the funeral home section which had a location of a funeral home in Oaklawn, IL and the receiving funeral home as Arlington National Cemetery. The fact is the funeral was Heitger Funeral Services located in Jackson Township, Ohio and the receiving funeral was a funeral home in DC that we are trying to locate.

Yesterday, I had a phone conversation with the Executive Director,Kathryn Condon. I shared the information, I had discovered and she was concerned at the level if inaccuracy in the report and assured me that I would know without a doubt were my son is buried. She is very passionate about restoring the dignity to Arlington National Cemetery. She wants to talk to the families and hear our concerns and make changes. I asked her if she had read my op-ed which she said yes. I told her I would like to be part of the solution and recommended that a panel be formed by family members that she would meet with periodically to get feedback on the cemetery operations.

At this point, further investigation will need to take place to verify if Heath is actually buried were his marker is located. It's a challenging time and could consume you. I will continue to update the public as I learn more. My goal is that maybe by sharing our story and being part of the solution, another family will not have to go through this ordeal.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Today Marks the end of the Iraq War - Why does it feel so anticlimatic?

Today Marks the end of the Iraq War - Why does it feel so anticlimatic? I said to Melissa this morning, "Well today the Iraq War is over" as we drank morning coffee. Melissa said, "Yea, and our son is dead..."

It's a sobering thouhgt, but I cannot let it end there. I just can't. Heath lived his dream and became a Marine. He was such a handsome, kind hearted, intelligent and interesting person. He loved God, his family and his country with his whole heart. I am so proud of him.

I am praying for a safe return for all our troops, but I am so sad. Congratulations to all our troops, I am proud of all of you! It's the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. God Bless America,

Arlington National Cemetery - A Spectrum of Desecration

Arlington National Cemetery is considered one of America’s most sacred and hallowed grounds. We chose to have our son, USMC Pvt. Heath Warner buried there when he was killed by an IED on 11/22/2006. Having a loved one buried there is an honor and a sacrifice. When we entrusted our son to the care of this most honored cemetery, I would never have imagined, we would come to know the spectrum of desecration that exists and haunts the families of those who have loved ones buried there.

Desecration by Administration
We became aware of an investigation taking place in the summer of 2009 by friends within our Arlington community. It appeared to be an isolated situation and we were never notified of by the administration that it was more than that – an unmarked graved was discovered. On June 10, 2010, I received a phone call while I was at work from a reporter asking me to make a statement about the news conference taking place regarding the “final report”. I was stunned to find there were 211 graves identified and incidents of desecration. However, this past July I was contacted again to make a statement about the expanded investigation which estimated up to 6,600 graves may be mismarked. Since then we have learned the cemetery is not computerized and an archaic method of record keeping using three by five index cards to track the pertinent grave information.

In fact over the last three and a half years, we have never been contacted by Arlington administration. When HBO imbedded their production crew for a three month shoot for their special on the families of the fallen, we had traveled six hours to visit our son’s grave only to be surprised by a videographer. Within minutes of our walking up to Heath’s grave, we were caught off guard by being filmed upon our arrival to his grave. If we had been notified by the cemetery that this was taking place we could have at least been prepared or delayed our visit.

The reality is Arlington administration has no mechanism in place to communicate with the families of those buried at the cemetery. Since the investigation, families are referred to a call center that was set up this past June and staffed by civilians hired by the Pentagon. They communicate by reading scripts. The entire process is a desecration to our son’s sacrifice and our family.

Desecration by Workers
One of the most disturbing findings was that of the cremation urns found in a land fill area within the cemetery. Having lived through the experience of burying a loved one at Arlington, I still cannot comprehend how the employees who bury our loved ones could be so disconnected from the honor of their services that they could desecrate the cremated remains of our veterans by throwing them in a ditch. I can only imagine how carelessly they lower the caskets into the ground and throw the flowers on top only to move on to the next dig.

Over the years we have accepted the fact that the treasures left at the graves as tokens of love are routinely thrown away. However, it was not until we were visiting Heath’s grave on the second anniversary of his death that we witnessed first hand the desecration and disregard by the grounds caretakers at Section 60. We had arrived in the morning for a private memorial ceremony. We returned to the cemetery after lunch, to find the grounds in disarray. Wreaths, flower arrangements, pictures, tokens of loves were strewn throughout Section 60. We originally thought vandals had gone threw the graves. The reality was the grounds had been desecrated by powerful blowers and were left as we found them. Melissa and I tried to repair what we could and replace as best we could; however, we ended up calling the florist we use for Heath’s grave arrangements and she came out to help as she knew the graves better. She filed a complaint with Superintendent Mesler on that following Monday.

Desecration of Honor
Arlington National Cemetery has been known as America’s sacred grounds and reminds our country of the sacrificed lives for freedom. However, from the top administrator to the grounds keepers, from the journalist and even the tourist who visits these hallowed grounds as if attending a festival, there has been a comprehensive desecration of honor. It’s hard to watch and process. I have watched a disconnect by American’s from the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and I question if this is reflective in the treatment of our war dead. Recently, a friend forwarded to me a political cartoon by Mike Luckovich which is a parody of Abbot and Costello’s comedy of “Who’s on First”. The cartoon shows a newsstand at Arlington with a newspaper headline stating 6,600 graves mixed up before the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery. By the stand are Laurel and Hardy asking who is buried there? Who? Pathetically sad, but I do admit it gave me a very tiny chuckle, but the reality is so true. Families are left to wonder - is this my loved one’s grave?

My family has come to the conclusion that our son is heaven in a better place were we never have to worry about his care and that he is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. We may wonder, but maybe through sharing our story we can help restore the dignity that our loved one’s deserve and the tarnished reputation will be repaired and the desecration replaced with honor, valor and dignity that once defined Arlington National Cemetery.

Link to Mike Luckovich political cartoon

http://blogs.ajc.com/mike-luckovich/page/2/

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gold Star Father Supports Congressman Boccieri's Requests of a Review and Audit of the Policies at Ohio’s National Cemeteries

As I indicated in the article in the Canton Repository recently, my wife, Melissa, and I new since last summer that there was an investigation regarding some of the graves at Arlinton National Cemetery. We were not told formally by the cemetery administration, but we heard through our informal network of friends associated with the cemetery. At that time we were told Section 60 was not one of the sections involved in the investigation.

To my surprise, the first I heard that the investigation was complete was through a reporter who had called an asked me to make a statement about the situation. At that point, I said I would get back to him and I contacted my friends who directed me to the live press conference. I learned the investigation had been concluded and there were 211 graves that had been improperly marked or were unmarked and Section 60 were my son was laid to rest was involved.

I was completely caught off guard by this for several reasons. First of all, we had never been notified directly that an investigation was taking place and that it had been completed through the cemetery adminstration. Secondly, the number of graves involved were significantly higher, 211, instead of a few graves which is what was making it's rounds through our informal network. Lastly, that the investigation included several graves from Section 60 which included the section where our son was buried. This is completely unbelieveable, unfortunate and not acceptable that a loved one should have to wonder if the grave their loved one is buried at is actually their loved one's grave.

ENSURING THE DIGNITY OF OHIO'S FALLEN SOLDIERS
I was contacted by Congressman Boccieri if I would support his requests for a review and audit of the policies at Ohio’s National Cemeteries. The press release below presents the official comments from the Congressman's office in which I did make a state of support for this review. I ask for your aupport of this effort. If this can happen at Arlington National Cemetery it can happen at any of our National Miliatary Cemeteries.

OFFICE OF U.S. CONGRESSMAN JOHN BOCCIERI
For Immediate Release
Friday, June 18, 2010
Contact: Jessica Kershaw
(202) 641-0098

ENSURING THE DIGNITY OF OHIO’S FALLEN SOLDIERS

WASHINGTON, OH – Although a Canton family’s son who served in Iraq and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery is not one of the hundreds of graves under review, U.S. Congressman John Boccieri (D-Alliance), a military member himself, today requested a review of Ohio’s national cemeteries. The audit and review asks that soldiers buried in Ohio’s cemeteries are treated with the utmost respect, in light of an Army Inspector Generals’ report showing hundreds of mismarked or unmarked graves at Arlington National Cemetery.

In his letter to Acting Under Secretary of Memorial Affairs Steve Muro, Boccieri requests a review and audit of the policies at Ohio’s national cemeteries which include the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, located within the 16th congressional district, and the Dayton National Cemetery.

Boccieri says, “I am writing you today in memory of the fallen soldiers from Ohio who earned the right to be laid to rest in our state’s national cemeteries and to request your assistance in assuring that these sacred places honor their memories…I know we both share a deep commitment to honoring the memories of the brave men and women who have served our great nation, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure their final resting places are those of enduring dignity.”

Scott Warner, father of fallen Iraq War veteran Heath Warner who is from Canton and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, supports Boccieri’s effort to ensure the dignity of soldiers at Ohio’s national cemeteries. He said, “No family should be wondering if the grave of their loved one is mismarked or unmarked. I believe it would be prudent that our national military cemeteries review their policies, procedures, and they have the technology to keep an accurate accounting of our buried military.”

Boccieri’s Letter to the Acting Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs is Below:

***
Friday, June 18, 2010
Under Secretary Steve Muro
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Muro,

I am writing you today in memory of the fallen soldiers from Ohio who earned the right to be laid to rest in our state’s national cemeteries and to request your assistance in assuring that these sacred places honor their memories.

As you know, it is a great comfort and honor to our nation’s soldiers and their families when a veteran is laid to rest at one of our national cemeteries. Unfortunately, according to a recent report from the Army Inspector General, hundreds of graves at Arlington National Cemetery have been mismarked, unmarked or moved without notifying the families of the soldiers.

Like many across our nation, I was deeply disturbed and angered with the mismanagement that allowed this tragic situation to occur. While the mismanagement that led to these unacceptable circumstances has been dealt with swiftly at Arlington Cemetery, more must be done to restore confidence in our national cemetery system.

While I believe the men and women working at Ohio’s cemeteries are as committed as I am to honoring the memory of our fallen heroes, now is the time for a thorough review of the policies at Ohio’s national cemeteries. That is why I am requesting a review and audit of the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery and Dayton National Cemetery —to verify that they have not been subject to similar discrepancies and confusion.

I appreciate your attentiveness to this matter. I know we both share a deep commitment to honoring the memories of the brave men and women who have served our great nation, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure their final resting places are those of enduring dignity.

Sincerely,

John Boccieri
Member of Congress

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Poem to Ponder

As I prepare for the upcoming Memorial Day events I ran across this poem. It reminds me of the moments that haunt me and my family. I am aware of a sadness that follows us forever.

They Lay At Final Rest
by Del "Abe" Jones

They lie in flag draped coffins
War's time for them, is done
But, for their family and friends
The battle has just barely begun.

Some may have had babies born
That they will never get to know
Some, fiancees wait to marry them
But fate, would not let it be so.

Some parents bury their children
Not right, in the scheme of things
Just one, of the many horrors
That mankind's warring brings.

They fought for their god and country
They proudly answered duty's call
Along with all their comrades in arms
But, sadly, these just gave their all.

The haunting sounds of Taps
And a three volley, gun salute
An Honor Guard in uniform
At attention, standing mute.

The flag will be folded reverently
Presented to those left behind
A small token from a grateful nation
But, relief from grief is hard to find.

Their name added to a roll of Heroes
With all those who have gone before
And there seems to be no ending
To all those to be sacrificed to war.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Not Just Another Saturday

This past Saturday I was driving and listening to the radio as I usually do. On the news break, it was reported that an official ceremony was taking place in Iraq. The Marines were leaving and transferring their presence to the Army. The ceremony was taking place in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq.

I knew the day would eventually come that this chapter of my life would come to a close, but it is so bittersweet, painful, sad and scary. This was the last part of Heath's life while he was alive. It's so hard to let go, but I am thankful that the very area that Heath was killed was also the place the Marines ended their service in the Iraq War.

I know this news clip probably passed by with little attention, but for me it had my complete attention. I pray that this pacified area will spur other areas to continue to move forward with peace. This was not just another Saturday for me but the turning of the page and ending of one chapter in my life and hopefully the start of another chapter. Thank you to all our Marines and Semper Fi.

God Bless,

Scott

An Amazing Day!

This past Friday I attended the National March for Life walk in Washington DC. What an amazing day. I attended the event with Fr. David Durkee and other members of Queen of Heaven parish and the Pro life National Youth Congress. Needless to say, I was on a charted bus full of teenagers. I have not done anything like that in a long time and it was a lot of fun.

At the rally prior to the walk I was inspired by several things. First of all this was my first march and I could not believe the sea of people who came from all over the country to attend this event in late January. Second of all, there were so many youth present. They were so much fun and shared their enthusiasm was contagious. The hope of our future is in our youth and I saw that first hand.

On Wednesday before I left for DC, I phoned in to the Gus Loyd Show on the Catholic Channel. The conversation centered on the election of Scott Brown to the United State Senate from the state of Massachusetts. In the midst of the GOP celebration, I learned he was a moderate on pro life issues among other things. During my call, I expressed my concern that conservatives should have to always elect GOP moderates as the lessor of two evils when presented with a liberal democrat and a moderate republican. I realize as in this special election that there are times this is necessary, but what unnerved me on my phone call was that callers after me said there was no way a pro life candidate is electable. Talk about being stumped, I could not believe what I was hearing.

After attending the March for Life in DC, I believe there are pro life candidates who do not have to compromise their views and are electable. Face it GOP if you think your moderate, middle of the road approach to electing candidates is going pull off the next Presidential election then you are brain dead. Conservatives are done with that and furthermore, will not tolerate that any longer. Get with the program and wake up.

God Bless,

Scott Warner

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Still working on the book.

Just wanted to give you an update on the process of the book I am writing. I have outlined my chapters and trying to write five pages a week. It is an interesting process. I have gone back to the past and have some good laughs as I remember fond memories. I think I would like the title to be, A Gift for Heath. I chose this because Heath wanted to write a book about his life and writing this book is my gift back to him. I hope it will inspire others on their journeys through life. If you have any stories about Heath pass them on to me as I may use them in the book. Have a great week! Scott

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!

As we start this new year, I wanted to share with you some things that will be taking place that you will find interesting and that I might need some help on.

1. I started releasing some editorial opinions (OP-ED's). The first was released in November entitled, Make Decision on Afghanistan Now ( http://www.cantonrep.com/opinion/x1158539608/Make-decision-on-Afghanistan-now ). The first was picked up in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Canton Repository and on Across the Country with Bob Dunning on XM radio. The second entitled, Is America Ready for Four More Years of War, I hope will be picked up in national papers as well as in Ohio papers in the next couple of weeks. If you have a topic you would like me to write on please let me know.

Here the latest op-ed for a preview.

OP ED by Scott Warner

Is America Ready for Four More Years of War



The decision has been made and a strategic plan to provide an increase of 34,000 American troops with an additional 7,000 troops from allied forces over an 18 month period. I believe if this surge is executed forcefully, strategically and the troops use all the means they have access to, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces will be severely crippled and allow the Afghanistan troops and police forces time to train and take eventual control of these high risk regions.

There are those who have attacked the 18 month time frame and the additional period of US forces stepping down over a total four year period. Initially with the Iraq war, I struggled when timelines where attached to the discussion of a troop surge. However, lack of planning and poor leadership only produced a period of unnecessary police forcing until the surge took place. From my point of view, we have an opportunity to learn from the past and be more bold, forceful, and strategic with the Afghanistan surge and as a result this time line is feasible. I am supporting the President on this decision.

What Does This Mean to America

We will soon be entering into our ninth year of war and as the 17,000 troops are deployed, I question if American’s have a clear understanding of the impact of four more years of war. I call the current wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, The Wars That do not Touch America. Unless you have a loved one serving, or have lost a loved one in the field of battle, these wars do not touch the average American. For the most part, our life styles are business as usual. Furthermore, I question if they even care about the undertaking we are about to take. The privilege of a safe free America and sacrifices of our all volunteer men and women are taken for granted, unappreciated and even minimized. Can you even imagine how a father and mother must feel sending their loved one to war? It is a rare call we are asked to make. Recently, in an interview on the Today Show, Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates stated, “that when a family member enlists the family reenlists.“ That is the experience of my family and families across America who have sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters who have to deal with the realities of war and their lives are forever changed. We know the financial costs are outstanding, but President Obama stated in his address at his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, “Still, we are at war, and I'm responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict -- filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other. “

With the reality that we are increasing our troops, we as Americans can expect an increase in casualties as time progresses. It has already been reported that the Muslim extremist are already preparing for the surge by creating improved IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices).

Life after the Loss

I share my thoughts and observations because I have witnessed there is a disconnect between the American population and the cost of war. This point was emphasized by President Obama as he stated in his Nobel address, “But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular, but I also know this: The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice.”

Since the loss of my son and as the process of grieving begins, my family and families across America have suffered greatly from the cost of war. Issues such as depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have caused many surviving families to take a cocktail of antidepressants, antianxiety and sleeping medications to function on a daily basis. Psychiatrists and counseling become a part of your new life. Finding a new normal is not an easy process. I have witnessed as a result of these consequences, individuals lose their jobs, retire early or are forced into early retirement and lose homes as their employers turn their heads to the long term consequences of war. Why should families who have given so much have to hire and pay thousands of dollars to pay attorneys as they are mocked by disconnected employers and coworkers? Some family member’s succumb to the devastation and chose suicide over life. This is an unexpected, disappointing reality of the life after the loss and sacrifice of war. I share this because I am living this out with my current employer and I am disturbed at the arrogance of our country that life is business as usual. As our President stated, “Peace entails sacrifice.” We have already given the ultimate sacrifice of the blood, sweat and tears of our loved ones.


What is the Solution?

Next of kin who are not a spouse or a child of a veteran do not receive federal support or assistance. Other than any life insurance your loved one may have elected to bequest to you and the government death gratuity there is no or very restricted support. The Gold Star Family (a family who has lost a loved one on the field of battle) are already recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense, but other than that there is no protection for Gold Star families as they move forward from their loss for their jobs, loss of wages, additional health care costs, insurance, and education benefits for those whose child had participated in the GI bill which could be passed on to their other family members. After the attacks of 9/11, the Congress passed the Air Transportation Safety and Stabilization Act, Public Law No. 107-42 (the Act). Among other things, this legislation established the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 (VCF or the Fund). The Fund was designed to compensate individuals who were injured or relatives of individuals who were killed in the attacks. For fiscal years (FY) 2002, 2003, and 2004, a total of $5.12 billion was budgeted to compensate the victims and their families. According to the Act, the VCF ended on December 22, 2003; no claims could be filed after that date (from the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund Of 2001 Executive Summary).

Why has similar legislation not been enacted for the families who have sacrificed so much already and continue to sacrifice as they suffer the long term effects of war? I challenge our legislators to listen to the stories of surviving families and develop federal support and assistance for the next of kin. As Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates stated that when a family member enlists the family reenlists; the Congress should provide the support the families need to move forward. I hope as time moves forward and as individuals like myself, the President and our legislators speak out, the community will replace ignorance and arrogance with compassion. My heart already goes out to the families who will lose their loved ones over the next four years. I hope I can be a light of hope to them.

Scott Warner
Proud Gold Star Father of Pvt. Heath Warner
KIA, 11/22/2006, Al Anbar, Iraq



2. I am in the process of writing a book. I am going to be posting on a weekly basis what I am writing on. If you are a family member or friend that has a story or memory to share, please pass it along.

3. We are in the process of planning The Pvt. Heath Warner 5K Memorial Run and Family Fun Walk. I will be communicating updates through Heath's website, www.pvtheathwarner.com and my Facebook account.

4. Over the last three years, we have been restoring Heath's car to be the lead car in the race, for parades and car shows. The car will be unveiled in May. Special thanks for Dr. Wraps and 3M for donating the materials and labor for Heath's Hero Car.

5. I have set up a blog, which I hope will catch on! The link for my blog is http://www.scottnwarner.blogspot.com . Please pass along to your friends.

God Bless,

Scott