Can vet’s wife be buried at veterans’ cemetery?

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

Can spouses of veterans be buried at the Cheltenham Veterans Cemetery in the state of Maryland? If so, can arrangements be made should the spouse precede the veteran in death? Thanks.

Ben R
Ft Washington, MD

Dear Ben,

The answer to your question is yes.

Burial in a State of Maryland Veterans Cemetery is based on military service and two years residency in Maryland. A copy of an official military discharge document is usually sufficient to determine eligibility for burial. The document must show a date of entry into active duty service and release from service which was under conditions other than dishonorable. Discharge documentation is needed for scheduling when a veteran or eligible dependent is already interred in a Maryland Veterans Cemetery.

Veterans Cemetery Program Contact Information:

Christopher T. Piscitelli, Director
1122 Sunrise Beach Road
Crownsville, Maryland 21032

Phone 410-923-6981
Fax 410-987-3920

A Pre-interment Program is available through which veterans may indicate their desire to be buried in one of the state's cemeteries and verify their eligibility for such burial on a pre-need basis. To apply complete the Pre-interment Application and mail to the MDVA Cemetery Program.

Shaft Notes

• Kudos to the federal workers who once again will generously contribute their hard-earned dollars to charities participating in this year's Combined Federal Campaign fund drive. As many of you know, the Sarge is partial to the Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF), www.bavf.org. The number used to designate contributions to the all-volunteer BAVF is 11282.

• The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Auxiliaries are urging their members to immediately contact their members of Congress to reject a proposal that would severely penalize working age military retirees.

The proposal, introduced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and his counterpart in the Senate, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would automatically subtract a full percentage point from annual cost of living adjustment increases through age 62. Had such a penalty been in effect today, the current 1.5-percent COLA would have been 0.5 percent for military retirees only, and the cumulative impact through age 62 would result in the loss of tens of thousands of dollars for every retiree of every rank.

"We know the federal government needs to curb its spending, balance its budget, and put an end to the sequester," said VFW National Commander William A. Thien, "but this proposal needs to be buried."

Thien said the troops and commanders he speaks with around the country and overseas are of one voice against proposals to change their pay and allowances, the existing military retirement system, and the overall TRICARE health program.

"They see it as a breach of faith and complete lack of support, understanding and appreciation for what it is they do daily for the rest of America," he said, "and I have promised to use my position as national commander of the nation's oldest and largest major combat veterans' organization to help defeat any and all measures that would have those who serve and sacrifice the most to sacrifice even more.

The VFW national commander is now urging all his members and supporters to help defeat this proposal by contacting their House and Senate delegations by clicking here or logging on to http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=63026806&queueid=10042843021.

• At this special time of year, I want to wish all my readers a very merry Christmas and offer special thanks for the poignant words of a fellow Marine for capturing the true meaning of the season. His only request was that people read it. Please enjoy and share this poem.

'Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give,
And to see just who in this home did live.
I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by mantle, just boots filled with sand;
On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.
With medals and badges, awards of all kinds,
A sober thought came through my mind.
For this house was different, it was dark and dreary;
I found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.
The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in this one-bedroom home.
The face was so gentle, the room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured a United States soldier.
Was this the hero of whom I'd just read?
Curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed?
I realized the families that I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.
Soon round the world the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate a bright Christmas Day.
They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year
Because of the soldiers, like the one lying here.
I couldn't help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,
"Santa don't cry, this life is my choice.
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more,
My life is: my God, my country, my corps."
The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep.
I couldn't control it; I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours, so silent and still,
And we both shivered from the cold night's chill.
I didn't want to leave on that cold, dark night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over, with a voice soft and pure,
Whispered, "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day; all is secure."

One look at my watch, and I knew he was right.
Merry Christmas, my friend, and to all a good night.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.