January 18, 2014

Expanded outreach promised for vets' grave sites

The Department of Veterans Affairs said it plans "to further notify the public" of available in-ground grave sites at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl after veterans groups said they were never told about an unprecedented number of open burial spots.

"We are puzzled and disturbed that these casketed gravesites were not made known to us," William Thompson, president of the 442nd Veterans Club, said in a Dec. 31 letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shin­seki.

The veterans group said it had no idea, until recently, that the grave sites were open.

For more than two decades, veterans were told that Punchbowl was at capacity for in-ground burials.

After becoming aware of the open grave sites in the fall, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said she and her staff worked with the VA to address this issue.

"Secretary Shinseki's leadership has been critical in helping to resolve this situation at Punchbowl. Our conversation was productive, and today's announcement is good news," Hirono said in a statement Friday. "The decision to publicly announce the availability of in-ground sites helps honor those who served in the United States Armed Forces and those who have given their lives in doing so. These brave men and women and their families deserve no less."

Read the entire piece at: http://www.staradvertiser.com/newspremium/20140118__Expanded_outreach_promised_for_vets_grave_sites.html?c=n

By:  William Cole
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser