Witness Testimony of The Honorable Steve Stivers, Congressman, U.S. House of Representatives (OH-15)
I want to thank Chairman Runyan for holding this important legislative hearing today on my legislation, the Place of Remembrance Act. The measure before the committee today would create a Place of Remembrance at the Arlington National Cemetery for Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and all wars and contingency operations moving forward.
I have served over 26 years in the Ohio Army National Guard and have been honored to serve with so many brave men and women over the years. Our service members and veterans have protected the United States at immense personal cost to themselves and their families – and at times pay the ultimate sacrifice with their lives to defend our nation and its ideals of democracy and freedom. They and their families deserve our respect and our gratitude, and we owe a debt to them for their service.
As a Member of Congress and service member I was as shocked and horrified as everyone else by the stories late last year on the Dover Air Force Base mortuary sending veterans’ remains to the Prince George’s County landfill. The Washington Post in an article from December 7, 2011 uncovered that “976 fragments from 274 military personnel were cremated, incinerated and taken to the landfill between 2004 and 2008.”
This is an outrage, a terrible injustice to our service members and their families, and should not be allowed to stand. The first step to address this issue is creating a proper memorial for these particular remains of those who served, so a travesty like this can never occur again.
I understand that the Department of Defense (DoD) has instituted a new policy to continue to cremate these fragmented remains and spread the service member’s ashes at sea. However, while this may be satisfactory to those in the Navy and Marines, as a member of the Army – I believe some soldiers and their families would like a different solution for their loved one.
That is why on May 10, 2012, I introduced H.R. 5735 that authorizes the Secretary of the Army to establish at an appropriate location in Arlington National Cemetery – a Place of Remembrance for the interment of cremated fragments. Remains from members of the Armed Forces that are unidentifiable by DNA or are unclaimed after a reasonable period of time could be interred at the Place of Remembrance.
I understand and appreciate the significance of the Tomb of Unknown Soldiers for our previous generations of veterans. This legislation is not intended to overshadow or detracts from this time honored memorial. This will allow a new and future generation of our heroes, families and the public to come to Arlington Cemetery to honor these patriots.
Those who gave the final measure in their service to our great nation deserve a final resting place worthy of their dedication, commitment and devotion.
Again, I appreciate the Chairman for allowing me to testify today and holding this hearing.