published Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Parents seek burial with veteran children

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    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.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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rolando said...

Sons and daughters buried next to mothers -- yes; mothers and fathers buried next to sons/daughters -- no.

When a man and woman marry, they begin a new family separate from their parents. The cord is broken -- although the connection remains, it is badly frayed...and rightly so.

The very last thing a man needs is a helicopter mom hovering unto death and beyond. The last thing a wife needs is that same controlling mother-in-law yapping at her in the hereafter. The mere thought chills my blood.

Much as I admire my M-in-law, I do NOT want her next to me or mine.

Much as I loved you -- Mom...Dad...find your own spot...

[Sounds like someone is looking for a free burial...]

January 2, 2010 at 7:06 a.m.
gdh66 said...

One of the privileges we have as veterans for our service to our country is to be buried in a National Cemetery. This is particularly true for those of us that have spent our careers in the all volunteer force. We made the selfless voluntary step forward to serve our nation.

I love my parents and they taught me my core value system but neither of them spent a day in the military so why should they be buried among the warriors and our spouses who have made their own sacrifices? It is a natural occurance for a young man or woman to leave their parents and start their own life. It is not a natural occurance for a young man or woman to risk his or her life and the future of themselves and thier families and leave their spouse and children to be deployed to some God forsaken country in an attempt to win our nation's battles.

The National Cemetery system, which is overseen by the Veteran's Administration, has a problem right now with burial spaces and projected burial spaces. Assuming that only half of spouses are buried with the veterans and then you add parents too, you will fill the cemeteries up even more quickly. Elderly parents and the veteran's siblings who are looking for a way to save on funeral expenses are not going to pass up a free burial plot.

Rep. Barney Frank (D - Mass.) is a liberal Democrat and has for years been in pursuit of dismantling, eroding, and picking apart the institution of the U.S. military in a way which fits it with his socialist agenda. He has proven over time that he will stop at no effort to compromise the military mission, focus and what are in the best interests of protecting our country. It is my fervent that our own representative, Zach Wamp, will not succumb to the Honorable Mr. Frank's self-serving and destructive liberal agenda.

January 2, 2010 at 9 a.m.
GMills said...

I agree wholeheartedly with both of you. If you want to be buried with your veteran children, you should have bought a plot in a private cemetery or served your country. You knew the rules when you buried them at the government's expense.

January 2, 2010 at 12:27 p.m.
MommaF said...

I am a divorced mother of a voluntered Navy veteran. Had my son wanted to be buried in a national cemetary I would have wanted to bury him there, because that was his wish & you are gonna tell me I could not be buried by him,I don't think so. No other family could be buried by him,& that you think I just want a free burial is a slap in the face.I am sure you are not a mother. I gave my consent to offer my son to serve his country not to be left alone throughout eternity. I agree with the Mother & would be glad to voice my thoughts

January 2, 2010 at 1:58 p.m.
hmurra1 said...

I am a wife of a US Army soldier that has been deployed three times during the war on terror, and is currently deployed. Death is a reality that we face every day. I have very strong feelings about this issue, and do not understand "Mamma F's" comments. You "gave consent?" Was your child under 18? I believe he made that decision on his own and neither he nor the American government needed your consent. If a soldier's wish is to be buried in a national cemetery, he or she is making that decision knowing the rules and regulations. The mother did not have to bury her child in the national cemetery. There is absolutely NO requirement that a soldier killed in combat, or otherwise, be buried there. If she wants to be buried next to her child, she should have considered that, and respected the institution that her child lived and died for, not disrespected the rules and regulations. It has nothing to do with a "free burial." No matter where the soldier is buried, the VA and VFW will aid in burial costs of a veteran. And GDH66, I am a very proud liberal military wife, and find your comments offensive as well. Don't make blanket assumptions.

January 2, 2010 at 4:03 p.m.
abdunkin said...

I am a wife of a soldier that was killed in Iraq in 2007 and laid to rest in the Chattanooga National Cemetery. I too find "MommaF'"s comment offensive. I know the grief that you can go through when loosing someone and its something you struggle with for the rest of your life. When you join the Military you have to make a large amount of decisions in regards to what will happen when you die, As the soldier you make those decisions knowing the rules and regulations about them. My husband wanted to be buried in a National Cemetery and thats where he is. If he had wanted to be buried at another location with his parents then thats what he would have stated. When the time comes that I pass away, I want my final resting place to be with my husband in the National Cemetery the way he wanted it and for his mother not to be there. Please do not make assumptions on a situation that you have not been faced with.

January 2, 2010 at 4:33 p.m.
rolando said...

First, MammaF, I suspect it is YOU who does not want to be alone "throughout eternity" and not your son. You see, he is surrounded by comrades-in-arms...he is FAR from alone.

If you have seen the painting, the artist of which I can never remember, showing a former military member standing before The Wall grieving for his comrades whose spirits are reaching for him to give solace from behind The Wall, you might gain an understanding of just how accompanied he is.

May that thought, and God, grant you peace, ma'am.

January 2, 2010 at 7:36 p.m.
gdh66 said...


I believe my statement was very specific. You need to research the statements and the policies that Rep. Barney Frank (D - Mass.) has supported over the years. Do not look at this one incident. He has been very, very direct in his opinion of the military and the institution. I will then leave it to your judgement.

January 3, 2010 at 8:43 a.m.
Craig said...

I knew Rodney Fitz in Submarine School and he was a WONDERFUL kid and this reflects well on his parents. We were friends and he even borrowed my car for a date. I cannot imagine that his Mother being with him for eternity would harm his memory in any way. He was still very much his mother's boy when he got orders for the Grayback and we last saw each other. I was very shaken when a transferee from the Grayback brought news to me of his death. We are all the poorer for his loss.

April 21, 2010 at 4:41 p.m.
Craig said...

When Rodney and I signed our papers the LAST thing we would have thought about was where and how we would be buried. We both knew that the submarine forces usually have the highest loss rates in active war and accepted that possibility. But through the weeks in school together I know none of us EVER spoke about our final resting place.

He died in an exercise that we both participated in on our boats and while any submarine is a dangerous workplace because death is always at hand it is rarely realized except in war.

Our Fathers who fought in Korea and/or Vietnam knew they were at risk and were forced to make real decisions on these matters but the dangers in modern submarines are often shielded behind access panels to lessen the psychological effects upon the crew.

While Rodney's boat was 10 years older in service, it was refitted (found by the Court to be flawed in its design and construction in this case) simultaneously with the commissioning of my Boat the Bergall.

I still remember those first months on board and he would have had too much to learn for qualifying submarines (done on your little off time) and too much section work to do to worry about his resting place in Chattanooga or anywhere else. We were filled with becoming men and experiencing life to worry about the risks.

The hardest thing for me has been that as an auxiliaryman I performed from inboard some of the same lock-ins and lock-outs and I cannot help but think that if I had been there I would have noticed the lack of venting noise before draining the chamber and been able to affect their fate. I was sleepless last night with nightmares running through this scenario through my mind with no good answer.

How is the Public harmed by his or any similarly situated Mother's request? Not at all so just turn your sick vitriol somewhere else or better yet bring it my face rather than hide behind your keyboard.

April 22, 2010 at 12:47 p.m.
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