No Room For Heroes?

Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away." But many veterans who served America so nobly in combat are worried about their final resting place.

The family of Lt. Col. Ernest Morgan buried their soldier this week, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr. A husband and a father honored in death for a lifetime of service in defense of his country.

His wife Veronica says, "There was just no doubt in his mind, what he really wanted was being in a military cemetery, buried next to his peers, to his comrades in service. And he wanted full military honors."

Fifteen hundred veterans are dying every day, a thousand of them from the generation who fought World War II. As the old vets watch their comrades pass on, they worry that the nation will run out of space in veterans' cemeteries.

Don McKee, a World War II infantry medic who landed amid the D-Day carnage of Omaha Beach, says, "We did accomplish something and we saved the world. And if we have cases now where these World War II combat veterans, for instance, cannot be properly honored, it's a reflection on the entire country. And that's sad."

The Department of Veterans Affairs insists there's enough cemetery space for 30 years, but concedes there is a more urgent problem: some parts of the country have no veterans' cemeteries at all.

Roger Rapp, Veterans Affairs spokesman, says "The state of Georgia has no open veterans' cemetery to serve them. And with 400,000 veterans around Atlanta, 600,000 veterans plus in the state of Georgia, that seems to be a spot that needs a national cemetery."

The government's goal is to provide all veterans access to a state or national cemetery within 75 miles of their homes.

And there is some progress. A cemetery being built in the Dallas area is just one of four that will be opened later this year. But, millions of dollars are needed to build more.

Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, says, "If we're proud about our character as Americans, you can judge that by whom we honor."


©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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