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'Total Dishonor': Marine Wife & Cemetery At Odds Over Headstone

By Michael Abeyta

DENVER (CBS4) - A widow in Denver who went through the pain of losing her husband to post-traumatic stress disorder is now going through the pain of something else.

Kimberly Vigil says her husband's headstone at Fort Logan National Cemetery is wrong.

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(credit: CBS)

Cpl. Elias Vigil served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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Elias Vigil and Kimberly Vigil (credit: Vigil family)

When asked to describe her husband Kimberly said, "Elias was full of life. He was an outdoorsman. He was a family man. He loved serving in the Marines."

Vigil spent a tour in Kuwait, but like so many who have served, he came home with PTSD.

"He was very silent about it. We talked a little bit when I went with him to therapy, but it was very small sessions," Kimberly said.

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Elias Vigil and his family (credit: Vigil family)

Eventually it was too much. In December of 2017, Vigil died by suicide and left behind Kimberly and four children.

"It was a nightmare," she said.

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(credit: CBS)

Kimberly buried him at Ft. Logan National Cemetery in a ceremony with full military honors.

After the ceremony, she received proof of what his headstone would look like. Then she realized something was wrong.

"On the headstone they were going to put Persian Gulf," Kimberly said.

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(credit: CBS)

It left her confused because her husband never served in the Persian Gulf War of 1990.

He couldn't have, he was only 13 years old. So, she called Fort Logan.

"They told me that they now put everybody that served in that region in one category," she said.

To her, that is unacceptable.

"It's a total dishonor of service," said Kimberly. "Like he doesn't matter. Like what he did for our country doesn't matter."

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(credit: Vigil family)

A spokesman for the Fort Logan National Cemetery says they decide what to put underneath a service member's name on their headstone based on the period and service area when the person served.

They say those periods and service areas are determined by Veterans Affairs. If they served in the Middle East after 1990, they etch "Persian Gulf" on a fallen service member's headstone.

In an email to CBS4's Michael Abeyta, the headstone of a service member serving during that period in that service area can be inscribed with either "Persian Gulf" or "Iraq."

Kimberly says she hasn't been able to visit her husband's grave because she's so upset.

"It hurts to see his name on there and knowing that it says 'Persian Gulf,' it's just a slap in the face," she said. "I would like him to have a new headstone that says Operation Iraqi Freedom. That's where he served."

Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.

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