FRANKLIN, Ind. — A veteran’s effort to get a damaged grave marker replaced for a fellow veteran revealed the need for better communication about the process, which should be available to anyone who sees a military gravesite in need of attention.
Gerald Bedwell visits the Franklin cemetery where his parents are buried several times a year. The Marine Corps and Indiana Army National Guard veteran considers the area sacred.
“It means a lot to me,” Bedwell said. “There are several [people buried] here that are veterans I knew.”
It’s a veteran Bedwell didn’t know whose final resting place bothers him. For years, Bedwell said the grave marker on the veteran’s burial plot has been cracked and incomplete, after being damaged by a lawnmower.
“He earned that marker to start with, there shouldn’t be no question on replacing it in my opinion,” Bedwell said.
After Bedwell’s efforts to replace the marker were met with roadblocks and people who told him he needed to be family to help, he reached out to the CBS4 Problem Solvers team.
A request to the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs revealed that you do not have to be a family member to help fix a damaged military grave. Director Dennis Wimer pointed CBS4 to the VA’s National Cemetery Administration, which accepts forms for markers like the one Bedwell hoped to see replaced.
“It’s critical to keep them in pristine condition so when someone walks by, they can appropriately honor that individual,” Wimer said.
The form can be filled out by a county’s Veterans Service Officer or by cemetery employees. It must include photos of the damaged marker in order to be considered for a no-cost replacement.
Wimer’s team helped fill out a form for the case in Franklin and communicated with the VA to get the ball rolling on a replacement.
“We’re happy to be following up on that and making sure that this gets accomplished,” Wimer said.
The CBS4 Problem Solvers team also confirmed with cemetery leaders that they were willing to install the replacement marker.
Wimer hoped to make more people aware of the process, which he said has become much easier after changes implemented at the VA over the past few years.
Bedwell hoped to see the replacement soon, given his years trying to help make a fellow veteran’s memory whole again.
“Hopefully we’ll get this replaced, to me that’ll make me feel great,” Bedwell said.
If you see a veteran’s grave marker that has been damaged, reach out to IDVA or your county veterans service officer for help. A list of officers can be found at the link here.