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In military cemeteries, the work serves to honor fallen comrades

By Ed O'Keefe

Marine Lance Cpl. Phillip D. Vinnedge is buried on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, alongside veterans dating back to the Civil War.

A roadside bomb killed him last month, 16 days after he arrived in Afghanistan. He was 19.

Days later, hundreds gathered for his burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, one of the country's most active military burial sites.

Vinnedge was just one of 18 people buried that day at the cemetery and one of more than 330 souls laid to rest at 131 national cemeteries across the country. Each of the burials must be treated with the same dignity and respect.

Those are the strict orders of the National Cemetery Administration, a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs whose 1,700 workers are mostly military veterans. Landscapers, grave diggers, family representatives and cemetery directors must attend training courses in St. Louis that, depending on the job, last from four days to a year.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | November 11, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  From The Pages of The Post, Military  
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