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Illinois’ cemetery educating vets on burial rights

October 5, 2014

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (AP) — Officials say thousands of Illinois veterans qualify for burial at national cemeteries, but they believe many are simply unaware of their federal benefits or that one exists in suburban Chicago.

It’s something that officials at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood say they’re working on. About 38,000 soldiers and their families have been buried at the cemetery since it opened in 1999. However, officials estimate many more don’t know about it, according to the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/1n6NU6V ).

“It shocks me how often we go out and talk to people, and they just don’t know,” said Lynne Phelan, administrative supervisor at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. “I think death is something people like to avoid thinking about, but this is something that all veterans need to know.”

Officials also cite forgetfulness and time as other factors.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays for the burial plot, a headstone or marker with an inscription, an internment flag and other burial benefits valued at about $14,000. Still, the National Cemetery Administration reports only 17 percent of veterans in 2013 were buried in national or state veterans cemeteries.

The National Cemetery Administration maintains 131 national cemeteries in 40 states and Puerto Rico. The website lists 10 in Illinois, but several no longer have burial space available, as is the case with national cemeteries in Alton and Rock Island. The administration’s website says there’s also one state veterans cemetery in Quincy called Sunset Cemetery.

Recently, Glueckert Funeral Home in Arlington Heights organized a trip to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery for dozens of area veterans to learn about their options.

U.S. Army veteran George Wingerter says he only knew about Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery. He served in the Army from 1969 to 1972.

“The most touching thing is when you see generation after generation lay it on the line for freedom. At that cemetery there is a kinship of all those generations in one place,” Wingerter said. “When you look at those grave markers, you realize that freedom is not free. People have paid an enormous price for us.”

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Information from: Daily Herald, http://www.dailyherald.com

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