Press-Republican

FYI...

September 26, 2012

Group honors troop remains dumped in landfill

(Continued)

Eventually, the group raised about $3,500, enough to order the 3-by-3-foot cast bronze memorial from a local funeral home.

But there was disagreement about where to put it.

For many, the idea of marking a dump as a military burial ground was offensive. They proposed erecting the memorial at the county courthouse or even at Arlington National Cemetery.

Others, including King George County Supervisor Ruby Brabo, felt that the plaque should mark the actual spot. She had contacted Gari-Lynn Smith, who wanted the memorial to be near her husband's ashes.

"If it was my husband in the landfill, I would want the plaque at the landfill," Brabo said.

At a sometimes emotional meeting last July, Lorey pleaded with a divided county Board of Supervisors to give approval for placing the marker outside the landfill gates, a grassy setting where flag poles already flew U.S. , Virginia, county and Waste Management Inc. flags.

"People think it's a big pile of garbage and you're going to put a plaque in front of it, but it's not," Lorey said. "It's more like a little park."

After he read aloud a supportive letter from Smith, the supervisors voted unanimously to approve the landfill location.

Brabo had less luck enlisting the Pentagon in the project, which memorializes an embarrassing episode. After getting some positive reactions to her preliminary requests for an honor guard, the ultimate answer was no, she said.

"Last fall, everybody seemed enthusiastic, but once it moved up the chain, the enthusiasm was no longer there," Brabo said.

According to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Warren, the Pentagon turned down Brabo's request because it came from her in a private capacity, not from the county supervisors.

"We would consider a request from the county government," Warren said.

Brabo said there was little support among supervisors to make the formal request. So organizers put together the program without military help. A color guard was provided by a local Sea Cadets chapter.

"I think [the Department of Defense] has really missed an opportunity here," Brabo said. "This was never about placing blame; it's about respect and honor for our service members."

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