Chairman Smith, Ranking Member
Evans, and other distinguished members of the
Committee, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is pleased to have this opportunity
to provide our comments for the record on our concerns regarding H.R. 3423,
which would amend Title 38 of the U.S. Code to allow the burial of a current or
former member of the reserves of the United States to be buried at Arlington
National Cemetery even if said reservist did not meet the current age and time
in service requirements of existing law.
Your bill is a response to the
tragedy that affected the family of Captain Charles Burlingame (the pilot of
flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon on September 11th) from
receiving full burial rights at Arlington. We concur fully with your view that
reservists like Captain Burlingame who die as a result of enemy action should be
accorded burial at Arlington, if that is their or the choice of their survivors.
We would respectfully suggest, however, that Captain Burlingame’s case helps
illustrate a point VVA has made to this committee on prior occasions: Arlington
can and must be expanded.
As we have testified previously
before this committee, the lack of burial space for our veterans—at Arlington
and across the country—is yet another example of the distortions in resources in
the VA system, brought on by years of under-funded budgets. At present, we are
deeply skeptical that VA’s existing and planned cemeteries will be able to
handle the number of World War II and Korean War veterans who will leave us over
the next decade. Simply put, acquiring burial space requires a) an available
property, and b) the funds to purchase the property, as well as build and
maintain the cemetery. We have some concrete suggestions on this topic that we
would like to share with you.
VVA is perplexed at why the Navy
Department continues to use the aging, deteriorating buildings at the Navy Annex
adjacent to Arlington when more modern office space is available in the
Washington metro area. If the Navy Department were to vacate the Navy Annex and
cede the land to Arlington, thousands of additional burial plots would become
available. We believe that this committee and its Armed Services counterpart
should hold hearings into the feasibility of this proposal early in 2002.
Secondly, VVA believes that it
would also be possible to create a new national cemetery in the city of
Washington. We are aware that there are unused tracks of land in need of
redevelopment within the District, specifically in the areas near the Takoma or
Rhode Island Avenue Metro stations. Turning this unused or underutilized spaces
into one or more appropriately landscaped and maintained national cemeteries
would create new national shrines to provide final homes for our honored dead.
Outside of the
national capitol region, we would respectfully suggest that sites identified as
excess by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission be evaluated for their
suitability for conversion to national cemeteries. We understand that Congress
often prefers to see such excess property sold to private developers as a way of
enhancing revenues. However, given the expected increase in veteran burials over
the next 15 years, we believe each facility slated for closure under BRAC
should be carefully evaluated for its suitability for conversion to a national
of America sincerely appreciates the opportunity to present our views on these
extremely important issues, and we look forward to working with you, Mr.
Chairman, and your distinguished colleagues on this Committee to address and
resolve these and other important matters of concern to our nation’s veterans.
VETERANS OF AMERICA
December 13, 2001
Veterans of America (VVA) is a national non-profit veterans membership
organization registered as a 501(c)(19) with the Internal Revenue Service. VVA
is also appropriately registered with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk
of the House of Representatives in compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act
of 1995. V
is not currently in receipt of any federal grant or contract, other than the
routine allocation of office space and associated resources in VA Regional
Offices for outreach and direct services through its Veterans Benefits Program
(Service Representatives). This is also true of the previous two fiscal years.
Director of Government Relations
Vietnam Veterans of America
(301) 585-4000, extension 127
Patrick G. Eddington
Associate Director, Government Relations
Patrick G. Eddington was an award-winning military analyst
at the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center for almost nine years.
He received numerous accolades for his analytical work, including letters of
commendation from the Joint Special Operations Command, the Joint Warfare
Analysis Center and the CIA's Office of Military Affairs.
During his tenure at CIA, Eddington worked a wide range of
intelligence issues. His analytical assignments included monitoring the break-up
of the former Soviet Union; providing military assessments to policy makers on
Iraqi and Iranian conventional forces; and coordinating the CIA's military
targeting support to NATO during Operation Deliberate Force in Bosnia in 1995.
Eddington received his undergraduate degree in
International Affairs from Southwest Missouri State University in 1985 and
master's degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University in 1992.
Eddington spent eleven years in the U.S. Army Reserve and the National Guard in
both enlisted and commissioned service.
Currently, Eddington serves as Associate Director of
Government Relations for Vietnam Veterans of America. His opinion pieces have
appeared in a number of publications, including the Washington Post,
Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Fort Worth Star-Telegram,
and the Army Times, among others. Eddington is a frequent commentator on
national security issues for the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, SKYNews, CNN, and
other domestic and international television networks. His first book, Gassed
in the Gulf, is a detailed examination of the Gulf War Syndrome controversy
and its impact on Desert Storm veterans. Eddington is a member of the Authors
Guild and Amnesty International. He and his wife Robin live in Alexandria,
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