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Veteran grave remains unmarked as family discovers paperwork issues

Veteran grave per John Williams III
Posted at 12:23 AM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 16:04:41-05

CINCINNATI — For more than a year, an Army veteran’s grave at Vine Street Hill Cemetery has remained unmarked.

“It's my dad's final resting place. You come out here and you see all these markers, and walking up there's no marker for my father,” John Williams III said.

Williams said goodbye to his best friend and father in November 2020. Over the past year, the visits to the grave site came with a level of uncertainty.

"I come up here and my mind's not at ease, because I don't know if I'm in the right spot,” Williams said.

He says last year he filled out the paperwork for the funeral and paid all fees associated with his father’s burial. He said as far as he knew everything he needed to sign off on to provide his veteran father a proper burial and the recognition of his service was done.

That included the paperwork for the Department of Veterans Affairs to request a military grave marker. He says an employee told him that no marker will be placed until the grave settles, and that it could take time.

"As I've come up over the year and seen no marker, I just figured that was the reason,” he said.

But when the one-year anniversary of his father's death approached, he decided to go to the office, finding out the paperwork for his father's grave marker hadn't been finalized.

Terese Marshall, the Vine Street Hill Cemetery manager, said Williams did complete all the paperwork necessary for the burial; however, the paperwork needed for the VA was not completed. Marshall said her staff told Williams he would have to “come back and fill out the application” and that “it's not our fault if the family does not follow through.”

John Williams said the cemetery staff should have reached out.

“If a family has something undone, the only way they're going to know it's undone is if you call them and let them know,” Williams said.

Terese Marshall said it's no longer their policy to follow up with grieving families, pointing out the brush-back from some families over the years to continual reminders to come and complete paperwork.

"We used to do that, and we were told, 'We’re not ready,'" Marshall said. "We used to do that for all families, then we were told, 'We’re not ready. Stop bugging us.' So then after a while you kind of step back and go, 'OK, we’re not going to do this again.'"

For Williams, it is a response that doesn’t settle well with him.

“Listening to that statement that comes from them, that's sad to me, because that shows to me they don't want to take the responsibility. You know, this is your line of work,” Williams said. “Anyone who doesn’t work in this field doesn’t know exactly what’s supposed to happen, so we are depending on the people working in these offices to give us the right information to get these things accomplished."

With the paperwork finally signed off on, Terese Marshall said her office faxed it to the VA the same day. The bronze grave marker has now been ordered, and it could take months before it’s finished and installed.

If you are a family member of a veteran, get informed about VA burial benefits by heading to https://www.va.gov/burials-memorials.

If you have a veteran story to tell in your community, email homefront@wcpo.com. You also can join the Homefront Facebook group, follow Craig McKee on Facebook and find more Homefront stories here.

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