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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Cemetery director: Markers get proper disposal

  • A video of old headstones that turned up on the grounds at Leavenworth National Cemetery raised concerns for many who'd seen the footage online.
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    • Story at a glance ...

      • An online video of old headstones that recently turned up in a drainage ditch at Leavenworth National Cemetery raised concerns.


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      Story at a glance ...

      • An online video of old headstones that recently turned up in a drainage ditch at Leavenworth National Cemetery raised concerns.



      • The cemetery director said the headstones apparently had been discarded there years ago, but they were replaced with new grave markers.



      • Cemetery officials don't know why the old headstones were discarded in that manner.



      • The old grave markers have been removed from the ditch and are being disposed of properly.

  • A video of old headstones that turned up on the grounds at Leavenworth National Cemetery raised concerns for many who'd seen the footage online.
    But, William Owensby, Jr., director of the Leavenworth National Cemetery complex, said the headstones that were discovered in a drainage ditch are ones that had been replaced years ago, and graves at the cemetery are properly marked.
    Owensby said the old headstones wouldn't be discarded in a ditch that way today, and they are now being disposed of properly.
    "I really don't know why it was done," he said. "It makes me sick to my heart."
    He said the old headstones were found in a ditch at the end of a culvert system for storm water. He said the ditch is located in a wooded area.
    The old grave markers apparently had been discarded there more than 20 years ago. He said they probably were covered up over the years by silt, but erosion caused by recent rain unearthed them.
    More than a dozen were reported to have been found.
    "They were not supposed to be down there," Owensby said.
    The old headstones were spotted by someone who is believed to have been on the cemetery grounds last weekend to hunt morel mushrooms. The person made a video of the grave markers and posted it online, Owensby said.
    "It sort of took on a life of its own," he said.
    Owensby said he didn't learn about the headstones until the after the video had been posted.
    When headstones are replaced today at Leavenworth National Cemetery, the old markers are pulverized. The small pieces are then buried in a maintenance area on the cemetery grounds.
    Owensby said the disposal of the headstones is carried out according to national cemetery rules that ensure old markers won't be used for anything other than their intended purpose.
    He said the rules date back to at least the 1980s.
    Owensby said headstones are replaced if they become damaged.
    Headstones also have to be replaced if a veteran's death comes after his or her spouse is buried at the cemetery.
    Owensby said the spouse's name initially will appear on the front of the headstone. When the veteran is buried, his or her name must appear on the front of the headstone, which requires a new marker.
    He said the headstones found in the drainage ditch had been broken into pieces, but they weren't pulverized the way they're supposed to be today.
    Owensby said none of the employees who work at Leavenworth National Cemetery were around when the old headstones were discarded in the drainage ditch.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Nobody knew anything about this," he said.
    Owensby said officials have verified that veterans' whose headstones were found in the drainage ditch are still buried at Leavenworth National Cemetery and their graves are marked with newer headstones.
    He said cemetery officials have been contacted by people who heard about the video and were worried the headstones of their loved ones had been removed.
    "That's what breaks my heart," he said.
    He said cemetery officials have been assuring relatives of veterans buried at Leavenworth National Cemetery that grave markers have not been disturbed.

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