A Navy veteran shared photos of military headstones being used to construct a patio and staircase at a home in southern Missouri on his Facebook page recently. The photos of military gravestones being used in this manner outraged veterans and others commenting on his Facebook photos while also triggering an investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Watch this military news story and hear from the Navy veteran who took the photos in the video below.
Veteran Ed Harkreader, who served in the Navy for 22 years, said he heard about the use of the military headstones from a friend and drove the short distance from his home in Arkansas to the property in Ozark County, Mo. While there, the Navy veteran took photos of a patio and staircase constructed from military gravestones with the names of veterans and spouses clearly visible.
“This isn’t the way you should use military headstones,” Harkreader told a St. Louis newspaper. “This is disrespectful of military veterans.”
Harkreader also tried, without success, to reach the property owner.
News Video Sharing Story of Military Headstones Found by Navy Veteran
Response from Military Officials Regarding Use of Military Headstones
A spokesman for the National Cemetery Administration in Washington announced that the inspector general’s office of the Department of Veterans Affairs is investigating the report after word spread thanks to Harkreader’s Facebook posts.
When discussing the headstones, spokesman Chris Erbe, said at this time no one was sure where the gravestones came from. He also stated that markers which are inscribed with errors or typos are supposed to be destroyed.
Further, military headstones are often replaced rather than re-inscribed when spouses die and are buried at the same location. In those cases, the old stones are also supposed to be destroyed.
“They are not to be used for any kind of home improvement project,” he said.
Update: Military Headstones Used to Construct Patio and Staircase – Response from Owner
According to a news report, which came out after the social media uproar from the photos posted by Navy veteran Ed Harkreader, the man who built the patio and steps told a local TV station he would remove the military headstones. That homeowner, who was not named in the story, said the gravestones were found in a landfill.
The homeowner said, “I was just making something out of nothing. Ninety percent of them are broken. They were never in a cemetery. They went from the monument to the landfill. There were mistakes. I didn’t know.”
That local television news confirmed a local monument company was once in business in the area and made military headstones. The station also confirmed that the military gravestones used in the patio and steps were damaged, discarded headstones.