Measure brought to light by fallen 19th century soldier
AUGUSTA – A bill to ensure that all veterans receive gravemakers–even when there is no next of kin–received unanimous support from the state’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee today.
“Veterans put their lives on the line for this country, and all veterans deserve recognition for their service, no matter how long ago they passed away,” said State Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland, the sponsor of the measure. “This bill is a small change that means a big difference for deceased veterans.”
Currently, the Veteran’s Administration requires that a government gravestone or marker can only be issued upon the application and request of the next-of-kin. In some cases of long deceased veterans, there is no next-of-kin, leaving some veterans graves without markers.
The issue was raised by Larry Glatz, who told the story of Billy Brown, a veteran from the turn of the 19th century who is interred in Eastern Cemetery in Portland. When Billy Brown died in the mid-1800’s, his body, like that of many African Americans at the time, was placed into an unmarked grave. He has no living next-of-kin.
The bill, LD 378, was amended to allow the Adjutant General of Maine or the Adjutant General’s designee as next-of-kin for deceased veterans in situations where the veteran has no living spouse or adult relative. The bill also ensures the veteran receives a grave marker.
The bill LD 378, “An Act to Facilitate the Issuance of a Gravestone for a Deceased Veteran with No Next of Kin” will now go to the Senate for further action.