Government shut down may slow interments at national cemeteries - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Government shut down may cause interments at national cemeteries to slow

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MONTEVALLO - AL -

 

The government shut down is affecting one Central Alabama cemetery. The Alabama National Cemetery, in Montevallo, holds thousands of veterans dating back to World War I. It's one of many nation-wide that could experience cuts due to the shut-down.

"They served our country in life, so the least we can do is take care of their loved ones in death," Herman Watkins, a veteran and staff member said.

After serving in the United States Navy, Herman Watkins decided to make sure each one of these veterans has the dignity they deserve.

"It's our responsibility to give back to our country," Watkins said. "A lot of people take our freedom for granted, but freedom is not free."

"This is one of the last things we can give a veteran and his family is the honor and dignity of being buried in a national cemetery," Quincy Whitehead, Cemetery Director said. "So for me, it's very important that we maintain this service."

Row after row, the lives of more than 2300 Alabama veterans are honored - men and women who served in wars dating back to World War I. But the government shutdown may slow the number of burials here.

"The need for this cemetery is important," Watkins said. "It's going to grow. It's going to get larger and larger. We're going to have more and more burials here as we all know that World War II veterans are dying - almost 1,000 every day."

Montevallo's National Cemetery buries between 7 and 10 veterans each week. Tuesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs sent a notice to all national cemeteries - saying their rate of interment may have to slow down.

"Basically when they said reduced schedule, we are not sure if we are going to go to like so many hours in a day, or bury them on certain days of the week, but I don't think it will have a really big impact on us because of the numbers that we do currently," Whitehead said.

That uncertainty - is leaving national cemetery leaders with more questions than answers.

"Whether they resolve the issue, or whether it continues, we are basically just waiting on guidance for what we do next," Whitehead said.

 

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