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STATEMENT OF HON. ARCH A. MOORE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA
Mr. MOORE. Mr. Chairman, and members of the subcommittee, I do not have a prepared statement. I want to talk with you very briefly and generally with respect to the matter you are studying.
As the chairman of the full committee, Mr. Aspinall, knows, over a long period of years I have evidenced an interest in a specific national cemetery in the State of West Virginia, the only one in our State. Having been advised by the chairman of the committee that you would devote yourselves here this morning to general policy as it affects national cemeteries, rather than any specific particular pending legislation that addresses itself to a problem in any particular State, I therefore would make my remarks of the most general nature.
Having listened to the questions that were posed to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Van Zandt, who preceded me, I would certainly like to join with him in indicating that I believe there is an overall responsibility that we, as a Nation, now have to our veterans and to those that have served our country in time of war, and the rights that they may have to burial in a national cemetery.
I was quite interested in the suggested costs that have been suggested by Mr. Aspinall in his questioning of Mr. Van Zandt. I, of course, would agree that at first blush this seems to be certainly a staggering amount of money to commit one's self to if you were to come up with an overall national policy in this field which would permit the expansion of, or the addition of, national cemeteries.
However, some of the costs that were recited as the basic costs involved are costs that are now a matter of law, which, no matter how this committee should decide national policy in this instance, the Federal Government is obligated to underwrite part of.
Mr. Aspinall mentioned the marker as part of the cost involved here. No matter what this subcommittee does, that is a continuing cost. Anybody, wherever he is buried, a veteran, if he makes proper application, can obtain a marker, and our Government has obligated itself by general law to provide it.
I would say that, generally, I recognize the difficult problem you have as a subcommittee. I was interested to note that the bills providing either for the expansion or the creation of new national cemeteries had grown considerably over the past number of years.
Specifically, may I just note I had not realized that a community could ever take pride in a national cemetery. The best evidence I was given to the fact this was not true was in the specific instance of a national cemetery that is in my congressional district, which is now filled. The interments there include soldiers from five adjoining States to the State of West Virginia. The city itself has taken great pride in being denominated a memorial city and has taken generally pride in the location of the national cemetery. They have even run up against the policy which is now in existence, in attempting to help themselves either expand or make additional facilities available so that this cemetery might continue to be operative, by suggesting to donate land to the U.S. Government for the purpose of expanding or keeping space available for future burials. They are, as a community, being stopped by the national policy, no matter how much they attempt to help themselves as a community to keep this particular cemetery in this instance operating
I would say there are many different aspects of this problem that you must study—whether or not it should take the form that the
gentleman from Colorado has alluded to, that it would be an across-theboard allowance for any veterans, so that the costs referred to would be certainly a contingency so far as the U.S. Government is concerned. I do not know that I suggest we go that broad. But there are a number of communities in which the cemeteries are in existence today that are attempting to work hand in hand with the Federal Government, at a cost which is certainly infinitesimal when you consider some of the costs that have been paid for additional acreage, that have run up against the national policy of flat refusal of any expansion, or the creation of any annex, or the further addition to any existing national cemetery.
I believe this, and I believe this very sincerely: That I do not think this subcommittee can consider, although I am certain that you will, the terminating of the privilege of being buried in a national cemetery. I think you have a most perplexing problem. How you are going to keep this privlege alive is the problem that you are studying at this time.
Whether it means just going full steam ahead in the creation of additional cemeteries, providing for annex or the enlargement of existing cemeteries, I do not know. Whether or not it would help your problem to redefine qualifications, whether this would reduce the demand for interment space, I do not know.
But I would suggest to you that this is a privlege which the Government, in one form or another, has committed itself to underwrite, and now that we find it either being tremendously expensive, or the fact that we have more soldiers that request it, or as the time of our history continues and I assume wars shall continue the demand for space like this will continue, I believe that right at this time we have such a severe problem in the national cemeteries, certainly one that merits the consideration of even calling this subcommittee meeting, that I am hopeful you gentlemen, sitting and using your best judgment, will not come up with a decision to simply terminate all of the facilities at the present time, save Arlington, which is a national shrine as well as a national cemetery, but that you will give, certainly, and I know you will, sincere consideration to the expansion of some facilities, where they can be expanded.
There are some of these national cemeteries that cannot be expanded, there are areas in which they can. Whether or not I have contributed anything to your deliberation, I do not know. I have a complete brochure with respect to an individual cemetery, which I shall not bore you with because this is on overall cemetery policy.
I have introduced legislation that affects only one national cemetery. I would certainly find my sympathies lying with any area of the country that has a similar situation to that I have in my congressional district.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. Thank you, Mr. Moore. I might say the chairman, as well as the subcommittee, is aware of your request in West Virginia, as well as your colleague's, Mr. Bailey. Both of you have been quite interested in that particular aspect. I am reasonably famil
iar with the individual problem over there and do commend your community and your people over there for the desire, as well as the respect that you do hold the cemetery in over there. I assure you also that the Chair, as well as this subcommittee, did not, without a great deal of trepidation and reluctance, walk into this subject.
The only thing about it is this: That this is a challenging responsibility. I might say, in the past, this responsibility has not been addressed for many years, and that is the reason we are in such a shape as we are here.
I would prefer to have let this subject pass. But regardless of the determination of this subcommittee, we will not come out unscathed. This is a very emotional problem. This is a problem that is a very deep and critical one. We must come up with a solution from the point of the honored dead as well as the honored dollar, and they must be compatible somewhere along the line.
It is regrettable we have reached this period, but we do have a responsibility and we shall discharge this responsibility in due course after considerable amount of testimony such as we have received from you and from your predecessor in the witness chair, and other Members of the Congress, and various interested organizations and individuals over the country. We do appreciate your contribution here this morning.
Mr. MOORE. May I terminate my observations, Mr. Chairman, by simply saying that my interest in the facility in West Virginia was first evidenced during the first time that I was elected to Congress. It is not a late interest in any sense of the word.
I would trust in the judgment of the subcommittee, and however you finally resolve the problem, and whatever solution or whatever policy you finally enunciate as the result of these hearings, I certainly would follow. I realize yours is not an easy task, as well as the members of the subcommittee.
I know that you will balance the equities involved, and it is just a crime that you have to be the depository of 90 years of neglect. But you have inherited it, and I think you are courageous just to undertake straightening it out. So I commend you, Mr. Chairman, and the other members of the subcommittee, and I also want to acknowledge my appreciation of being given the opportunity to appear before you and making this brief comment.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. Thank you, Mr. Moore.
Mr. ASPINALL. Mr. Chairman, I have one question. Mr. Moore, you realize the present situation is most inequitable and when you talk about these benefits afforded to the veterans, you are not talking about equal benefits at all. There are 17 States in the United States that do not have national cemeteries. Not only that, in many States that do have national cemeteries it is impossible for the loved ones to send those who might be entitled to those cemeteries for burial because of the expenses, because they have to pay the expenses of transportation. So when we look at this, Mr. Moore, we not only look at what some people contend are supposedly fringe benefits, but we also look at the inequities that exist in the program at the present time, and that makes it a little bit more difficult also. You understand that.
Mr. MOORE. I certainly would agree with you, Mr. Aspinall, I would say that in any realm of governmental activity, not particularly national cemeteries, this same inequity exists.
Mr. ASPINALL. All right. Let me ask you this question: Are you in favor, then, of the United States paying the transportation of a body of the veteran to a national cemetery so it can be buried there!
Mr. MOORE. I think that is one of the considerations to qualification.
Mr. ASPINALL. As to residence.
Mr. MOORE. Right. And I believe, in addressing yourselves particularly to that one point, that you would decrease the demand for burial in a national cemetery.
Mr. ASPINALL. You certainly shall because you do not give an equal opportunity whatsoever.
Mr. MOORE. That perhaps is very true. You may have to construct a cemetery in every State in the Union. But I would simply say, at first blush, I certainly would agree it is not an equal opportunity.
Mr. ASPINALL. It would not be equal if you do that, because my home district is 300 miles from Denver where they have a national cemetery, one of the last ones created. I was one of those responsible for it. I am not so sure I served my buddies well when I did it, as far as that is concerned. There is no equity there.
Mr. MOORE. I do not believe that the selection of a national cemetery for burial by a veteran or his family is simply to get out of the cost of interment in a cemetery in the community in which he lives. I believe that family, or that veteran in his time has decided there is some significance and some difference about being buried there, that it is an honor to be buried in a national cemetery.
If you set up a set of rules and regulations which makes him have to pay the transportation costs to attain that honor, if that is what it is, then I think that you would be more than fair. There are some that would be privileged by reason of their station in life, perhaps, to afford such transportation; other persons would not. But we have that same indecision today in communities where individuals who are not veterans must make the decision by reason of their own economic status whether to be buried in potter's field at 10 bucks a throw, or whether or not their family can afford to be buried in the local cemetery with reasonable dignity at the cost of X number of dollars, plus perpetual care. I think that well might be a point for you to consider, and I know that you will
Mr. RUTHERFORD. Are there other questions?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I think the members of the subcommittee early in the hearings realize the magnitude of the problem we have here. One of the things that concerns me—and I would like to hear more about it as we go along—the chairman of the subcommittee has mentioned that we are caught somewhere between the honored dead and the honored dollar. I think it goes a little deeper than that. I think we are caught here between the honored dead and the honored living, to some extent. I know all of these figures are subject to scrutiny as we go along. I have heard mention already here of a $3 billion cost.
There would be a very grave question in my mind, in view of the needs of the living veterans, if we should even consider setting aside that amount of money even though it is a great honor to the dead, and in effect, take it away from the living veteran.
I think that has to be one of the things we have to consider very carefully as we proceed with these hearings.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. I think the gentleman from New York is correct. In fact, the national veterans organizations who honor the dead are helping the living.
Are there other questions of the members of the subcommittee ?
Mr. RUTHERFORD. The next congressional witness is Mr. William T. Cahill, of the First District, New Jersey.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM T. CAHILL, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Mr. CAHILL. Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen, no one could sit and listen to the discussion that has preceded my testimony without recognizing the acuteness of the problem that faces this committee. I find myself
pretty much in the same position as the previous witnesses, in that I, too, at the request of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars have introduced a bill to extend the territory of the Beverly National Cemetery, which is the only national cemetery in the State of New Jersey.
I also recognize the admonition of the chairman of the subcommittee that my remarks should be general in nature.
I would say, however, that there has been presented on behalf of the two large veteran organizations of the State memorandums relative to
Just three or four observations, Mr. Chairman, which may or may not have any significance to the committee.
First of all, I would point out that the number of bills that have been introduced in the last two Congresses point out the great need for some overall policy of the Congress in relation to national cemeteries.
Mr. Aspinall has pointed out very forcefully, I think, the problems that arise by reason of the lack of facilities in certain States.
I have been advised, for example, that at the Beverly Cemetery in the month of February, out of every eight funerals that took place, seven of those bodies came from outside the State of New Jersey, some of them as far away as Georgia.
I have also been advised, of course, that under the present rules of eligibility, within the next few years the available space at the Beverly Cemetery will be exhausted.
This points out what I am sure is paramount in the minds of the subcommittee, that if the present situation continues to exist without any changes, we will perhaps have the anomalous situation of a veteran who has been hospitalized in a veterans hospital, because of the severity of wounds sustained in battle, being unable to be buried in a national cemetery, whereas a peacetime veteran will have that right.
It seems to me, if I may just summarize my thinking, that this committee, charged as it is by the Congress with, in the first instance,