WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Steve Stivers (R – Columbus) today introduced the Honor Those Who Served Act, which will make it easier to provide headstones for veterans who currently don’t have a headstone, or for those whose headstones have deteriorated. Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-OH) are co-sponsors of this legislation.
“Those who served in the military deserve our full-support, especially those who gave the final measure of devotion to our great nation,” Stivers said. “Our veterans deserve better than unmarked or deteriorated graves and this bill will help remedy this problem.”
In 2012 the Veteran’s Administration (VA) put into place a new regulatory barrier to applying for a headstone. There must be approval from the Next of Kin (NOK) to receive a headstone for a deceased veteran.
However, there are researchers, like those at the Ohio Historical Society, who research archives, death records, military records and genealogical records to determine the identity of Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers buried in unmarked graves. These groups then work to find the NOK. But, sometimes that is not possible when today’s headstone applicants are seven generations removed from the Civil War, for example.
Stivers’ legislation would stipulate that if NOK cannot be found then headstone applications may be filed with the VA by: the state veterans service agency, military researchers, local historians, genealogists, or others familiar with research sources or methods needed to prove a veteran’s identity.
In his second inaugural speech, President Abraham Lincoln stated, "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan," affirming the government's obligation to honor those who serve our nation. These words of Lincoln’s became the VA’s motto in 1959.
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