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Why Coats Supports A Bill Removing Some Vets From Cemeteries

The legislation would give the Veterans Affairs department the authority to disinter veterans buried in national cemeteries who committed certain crimes.

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    The Golden Gate National Cemetary in San Bruno.

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    Michael LeShawn Anderson was buried in Fort Custer Cemetery after killing Alica Dawn Koehl and then turning the gun on himself.

U.S. Senator Dan Coats testified today in support of a bill he’s authoring that would give the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of the Army the authority to disinter veterans buried in national cemeteries who committed a federal or state capital crime.

The Alica Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act is named after Indianapolis resident Alicia Dawn Koehl, who was shot and killed by a veteran named Michael LeShawn Anderson.

Anderson committed suicide after the shooting and was buried with military honors at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Michigan.

Coats says federal law does not allow for burial of a veteran if they have committed a federal or state capital crime but have not been allowed a trial due to death, and it was a mistake to let Anderson be buried in a national cemetery.

Coats spoke before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs this afternoon, asking for their support for the bill.

“I think justice will be served and the family can find some closure from this tragic situation,” he says.

Coats said in talks with the Department of Veterans Affairs officials, they said they do not have the authority to disinter a body.

Representative Susan Brooks, R-5th, has introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives and also spoke in support of the bill today during a House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing.

“I’m encouraged to see this bipartisan effort moving forward in both Congressional Chambers,” Brooks said. “The Koehl family has been through a tremendous tragedy and it’s time to give them the closure they deserve.”

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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  • http://www.cemops.com/ CemOps

    What a stupid and disrespectful idea this is. Had the Veterans Administration done their jobs to begin with, digging up peoples loved ones wouldn’t be necessary. They would have verified prior to interment eligibility based on their requirements instead of putting families through such a cold and uncaring process. The next question is obvious; If you evict someone from a VA grave, what happens to the body? The casket? Don’t be so callous to say the family can find another cemetery to reinter their loved one in. First, there’s the costs associated and many public/private cemeteries are outrageously expensive. A veteran EARNED the right to interment for serving their country, no manner of buffoonery by the VA is going to justify such desecration based on something learned years or decades later. The VA has already become pretty irrelevant for many of us veterans as it is, what the heck do it to us when we are dead too. It’s not like we will know. Bastards.

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  • Grayce Goin

    Coats seems to be in the running for the most idiotic pronouncements to come out of the senatorial chamber. Aside from the fact that this is a despicable action, he is pandering to a single family in his home state. Michael Anderson served his country honorably and should be allowed to rest in peace.

    There are issues impinging on the entire country that need immediate attention, of course these b’tards have already decided that they are only working 8 days next month so they have sealed their fate as the most useless session of congress in history. I know they must be very proud of themselves.

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