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