CLEVELAND (AP) — A U.S.
Senate bill that would make it easier to get headstones for historic
unmarked veterans' graves has drawn support from historians in Ohio.
Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jon Tester (D-Montana) recently introduced a
bipartisan bill to enable veterans' service agencies, military
researchers, historians or genealogists to request free headstones or
markers from the Department of Veterans Affairs for veterans' graves.
The VA previously provided headstones for unmarked graves based on
documentation of a veteran's identity and service provided by those
groups or individuals. But a 2012 policy change limited requests to
veterans' next-of-kin or authorized family representatives.
and veterans groups says the change makes it more difficult to get
markers for graves sometimes dating back more than a century, The Plain
Dealer in Cleveland reported.
Portman-Tester bill matches a similar measure introduced in the U.S.
House of Representatives last year by Rep. Steve Stivers, an Ohio
"This bipartisan legislation is a common-sense way to
honor the men and women who have worn the uniform throughout our
nation's history with the official recognition they have earned and
deserve," Portman said in a statement.
The Ohio History Connection
worked to research and recognize military veterans buried in unmarked
graves prior to the policy change, Todd Kleismit, the organization's
director of community and government relations, said.
that this legislation can help us get back to that important work that
has been postponed now for the past couple of years," he said.
VA has said the change was intended to discourage someone from marking a
veteran's grave without descendants' knowledge or consent.
Stark, a volunteer archivist and member of the Woodland Cemetery
Foundation in Cleveland, says he has documented and obtained nearly 200
headstones for veterans' graves. But he says there are dozens of
unmarked graves in the area, including several graves of Civil War
veterans that he could request headstones for if the policy was changed.
nothing we can do about it unless a descendant wants to sign a form,
but we don't know who they are, if there are any at all," he said.