- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Montana State Veterans Cemetery no longer allows most graveside services because of safety and liability concerns, although exceptions are made, an official said.

Joe Foster, administrator for Montana Veterans Affairs Division, said that the cemetery’s new committal shelter is being used for most services.

Since the committal shelter and columbarium were built and available for use about a year ago, they have replaced graveside services, Foster said.

Use of the committal shelter complies with national policy by the National Cemetery Administration, he said.

Spiritual or exceptional circumstances, he explained, allow for graveside services.

“If that’s the case, we’ll do it. We will accommodate that,” Foster told the Independent Record (http://bit.ly/1KTAwgK).

Foster said he has heard concerns from some families that don’t support the new policy and he plans to meet again with that group later this month to further discuss the policy and reasons for it.

The policy now is that services are held in the committal shelter and then the casket or urn is taken to where a grave has been opened awaiting the remains.

Families are not allowed access to the grave for 30 minutes after the ceremony for the internment of cremated remains and one hour if a casket is used for a burial.

The 30-minute delay allows time for cemetery staff to complete the burial and make the grave presentable while the hour is needed for the same process for a casket and to allow time for removal of equipment used in that process, Foster said.

The national policy is based upon safety, he said. Anytime an issue of safety is identified there are also liability concerns, he said.

“Things have happened,” he said.

In one case, a pallbearer helping to carry a casket accidentally stepped into a grave, although he was not hurt, Foster said.

In another instance, two children running about the cemetery knocked the cover off the area excavated for cremated remains and fell into the roughly 18-inch deep excavation, he added.

He said he has also heard of concern about people attending these graveside services and walking on other graves.

“Now we have a system where that doesn’t happen either,” Foster said.

Committal shelter services are used at the cemeteries he administers in Helena and Missoula, while graveside services still take place in Miles City, which does not have a committal shelter, Foster said.

___

Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide