Column by Jesse Church
Hello veterans, old Jesse here with all the veterans’ news and upcoming events. In a follow-up to the story about the scandal at Arlington National Cemetery that I wrote about in the April 20 issue, there are been some new developments as reported by Kyle Jahner in an article that appeared in the April 25 copy of the Marine Times. The new management at Arlington came under fire on April 14 at a House hearing on accountability at the nation’s most famous burial grounds, a landmark embroiled in controversy since last year’s scandal over misplaced remains. The secretary of the Army and the service’s inspector general who oversee Arlington did not attend. Instead, Kathryn Condon, director of the Army National Cemeteries Program, and Patrick Hallinan Arlington’s superintendent, took the brunt of lawmaker’s ire.
It was revealed that the Virginia cemetery had as many as 200 gravesites inaccurately marked, had buried multiple urns in the same plot, used archaic paper cataloging systems, and could not account for $4.5 million allocated to a new electronic mapping. Condon told lawmakers that they have since established leadership positions, and accountability where none existed before. They have automated some parts of the operation, and officials now require that a non-biodegradable and identification tag is put on each casket, the grave number is painted on the grave’s concrete lid, and other burial rules are strictly followed.
Lawmakers were unimpressed. Rep. Mike Coffman, a former Marine, said prior management may have created a culture of incompetence if not corruption, but did not excuse shortcomings he saw. Lawmakers also questioned accountability for the turmoil, bringing up the possibility of criminal charges. So far no charges have been brought in connection with the controversy. I will continue to follow this story, and as new information becomes available, I will pass it along to you in this column.
I’d like to let you know that Joe Thompson, the VA service officer, will not be on Molokai in June. He will be here in July, and as soon as I know the date, I’ll let you know. John Condello, the veteran’s advocate, will be on Molokai the first two Thursdays of July, the 7th and the 14th, from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. by appointment. He will be at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs; call 553-3611 for an appointment.
If you would like to purchase a Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans shirt, there are some left. T-shirts are $15, and polo shirts are $25. Stop by the Veterans Center or call 553-8387. To all the people that donated their time, money or merchandise for the Cribbage Tournament, please stop by the Veterans Center and pick up your T-shirt.
If anyone has any news or stories, or just would like to talk about their experiences while in service of this great nation, or just would like to say hello, give old Jesse a call at 553-3323. I’d love to hear from you, a big mahalo to all our veterans, and the people of Molokai, you’re the best, I love you all. Let’s all say a prayer for our men and women that are serving in harm’s way and ask for their safe return.