Senators Frank Aguon Jr. and Joe San Agustin met with special assistant to the governor Jose San Agustin to tour the cemetery.
GGuam – The state of the Guam Veterans cemetery has come under fire recently as PNC received pictures of cracked and sinking crypts, lawn waste overtaking headstones, and what appears to be Hazmat violations inside a work shed. Now, Guam VA officials and two lawmakers are promising sweeping changes to an issue that has plagued the Veteran’s cemetery for years.
On Friday Jose San Agustin, Senator Frank Aguon Jr. and the Co-chair of the committee on Military Affairs Senator Joe San Agustin, visited the cemetery to try and address these issues.
As a special assistant to the Governor, under the leadership of interim VAO administrator General Rodrick Leon Guerrero, San Agustin tells PNC that he has already begun to make sweeping changes to fix these issues.
“I’ve started communication with DPW. Glenn Leon Guerrero, as a matter of fact we met this week. And I showed him my concern and what I asked him is to send me a structural engineer to take a look at the crypts to see if it can be saved. And if cannot, [then] what is the recommendation and my recommendation is if it can’t be saved, let’s demolish it and plan to build new ones,” says San Agustin.
Senator Joe San Agustin says he plans on holding an informational hearing, along with Senator Dennis Rodriguez, the committee chair, to speak with local veterans and find out how they can fix and fund some of these deficiencies. Meanwhile, Jose San Agustin says he will continue to find “innovative” ways to fix up the cemetery.
“Might it be that I just got this responsibility, it’s now my responsibility to deal with it. I don’t care what happened in the past I gotta do what I gotta do and I always look for room for improvements and correct deficiencies and there’s been a lot of deficiencies here,” said San Agustin.
But there are a host of other concerns brought up by one local veterans group regarding the current leadership. In a letter to another Veteran, Rodney Cruz, Founder and President of the Iraq Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Veterans of the Pacific, says the Guam Veterans Affairs Office is in violation of Guam law.
In his letter, Cruz says “I am writing to express concern of the state of the Guam Veterans Affairs office failure to uphold it’s duties required by law in accordance with title 10 of the Guam Code Annotated (G.C.A). To include such concern of the status quo of the GVAO leadership by the Governor of Guam through executive order.”
Cruz is calling for an oversight hearing based on several concerns his organization has with the current VAO leadership. Cruz says that Mr. (Jose) San Agustin has not been confirmed as the administrator of the Guam VAO but is acting as one. Currently, General Rodrick Leon Guerrero, adjutant General of the Guam National Guard, is the interim VAO administrator. San Agustin confirms this fact saying his official title is as the special assistant to the governor but was given responsibility from General Leon Guerrero.
Additionally, Cruz writes that the Guam VAO has failed to provide financial documents, as required by law, showing the state of the Veterans Cemetery Fund…a major part of the funding required to fix up the cemetery.
“Now we do have the cemetery fund, where we are reimbursed for every veteran that we bury. Now I can tell you we have a substantial amount of these funds in place. And that’s why I’m dealing with the issues and initiatives that I have going forward because there is funding there that I can use to take care of the maintenance,” says San Agustin.
Cruz goes on to list additional concerns requesting a follow up audit from the Guam OPA.