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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • LV Times editorial: Outcome trumps controversy

  • The issue: Once forgotten gravestones at Leavenworth National Cemetery were found unearthed in a ditch.

    Our view: National Cemetery personnel handled the situation well, righting a wrong and fixing an unintentional, yet potentially harmful oversight.
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  • The video, a handheld recording roughly a minute and 19 seconds long, reached far and wide via social media, as controversial material does in this digital age.
    On Facebook alone, it drew almost 400 comments and was shared more than 8,000 times.
    At the center of the video controversy: broken headstones discovered in late April in a ditch at Leavenworth National Cemetery, a sad, troubling location for the markers of brave and patriotic combat veterans from numerous campaigns.
    "They're everywhere, just laying in the creek," the man who made the video is heard saying. He adds, "I just think it's weird. Why would there be all of these down here?"
    The hard feelings of disrespect seen in the hundreds of Facebook comments, and the question the videographer is overheard asking, are justifiable.
    The headstones of late veterans certainly deserve more respect than what they were shown.
    Thankfully, National Cemetery officials agree.
    The gravestones found in the ditch had been removed from graves at the cemetery  and replaced more than 20 years ago. They had been broken into pieces and buried, but were unearthed by rain and erosion.
    Cemetery Director William Owensby estimated about 50 headstones were recovered from the ditch. He said he and his staff didn't know about the headstones until the video surfaced.
    Owensby said whoever buried the headstones did so as a way of disposing of them, given they were no longer needed. He said he didn't believe there was malice behind the improper disposal.
    Earlier this month, the gravestones were again disposed of, this time properly. They were broken into smaller pieces, buried at another location on the cemetery grounds, and the location was marked on master maps.
    It doesn't seem likely the markers will ever again be lost in time.
    The Leavenworth Times appreciates the National Cemetery's response to the gravestone oversight, and also the man who made created the video and released it to the public.
    The newspaper agrees with Owensby — it's doubtful anyone associated with the cemetery's past intended for the gravestones, and the veterans they represented, to be disrespected.
    Was it a mistake? Yes.
    Was there malice? We side with Owensby and think not.
    In this case, it's important not to let the controversy overshadow the outcome, and that outcome was the proper disposal of the stones, a small repayment of the debt owed to all American military personnel.
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