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.