Since You Asked: E.P. cemetery staff 'squared away'

I was out at the Eagle Point National Cemetery recently for the burial of a friend of mine. It's incredibly beautiful. I'm glad we have a place like that for veterans when their times comes. But I was curious why the flag was at half-staff. Is it like that all the time?

— Charlie C., Medford

You are absolutely right, Charlie — it is a beautiful site, well taken care of by the people who work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The veterans here at SYA headquarters salute the national cemetery crew and their work. In military parlance, they are "squared away."

As for the flag at half-staff, it is lowered a half-hour before each funeral to honor the veteran being buried, explained Cemetery Director Maurice Roan.

"Thirty minutes before an interment, we always bring it down to half-staff," Roan said. "Normally, we have services every day. On those days when we continually have services, we will keep the flag at half-staff."

The cemetery, which covers nearly 50 acres on the east side of Riley Road, has more than 12,000 occupied grave sites. Two years ago, the cemetery was expanded by 8,000 gravesites to allow up to 20,000 burials.

The cemetery is available to active duty personnel and veterans with discharges other than "dishonorable," as well as their spouses and dependent children.

In addition to providing a gravesite and a grave liner, the VA staff opens and closes the grave and provides a headstone or marker, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, a U.S. flag and perpetual care for the grave at no cost to the family.

"One thing we make sure we tell the veterans is that, while they can't reserve a site, they need to put their discharge paper (DD 214) where the family can find it at the time of need," Roan said.

In addition to the Eagle Point cemetery, Oregon has two other national cemeteries, including one in Roseburg and the Willamette Cemetery in Portland.

But we figure ours is the most outstanding.

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