Senators buck federal restrictions on adornments at vets cemetery

(PNC photo)

Guam – Senators are attempting to challenge federal regulations in the name of longstanding cultural traditions related to honoring the grave sites of U.S. veterans.

Sens. Kelly Marsh-Taitano and Jose ‘Pedo’ Terlaje stand in strong opposition to federal rules that regulate activities at the Guam Veteran’s Cemetery, which enforces the same rules and regs that apply to all veteran’s cemeteries throughout the nation. The senators are particularly opposed to the ban on the placement of commemorative tributes on graves at the Piti location,

“For Chamorros, especially in their own homeland,  these are identities that they have alongside their military identity,” Marsh-Taitano said. “I think it would be a shame to say that they have to forsake one in order to be recognized for all of their years of service. I do not see why they cannot sit together.”

“So, it’s not to dictate what should be on the grave,” Marsh-Taitano continued. “It’s to give veterans and their families a chance to have a say.”

Last week, Fred Bordallo, acting director of the Veteran’s Affairs Office, explained on Newstalk K57’s Morning’s with Patti why these standards are in place. According to Bordallo, compliance is monitored by the Veteran’s Association’s National Cemetery Association.

“This is a cemetery [and we have to] abide by the rules and regulations,” Bordallo said.

Bordallo said the association visits every few years to see where or not the cemetery is following those regulations.

“The federal government needs to recognize that although we love our country, our cultural practices may differ from those in the continental United States,” Sen. Pedro Terlaje said. “All we ask in this resolution is for the ability to continue to practice the traditions taught to us by our mothers and their mothers before -end quote- However, for a K55 listener, being buried at the Guam Veteran’s Cemetery is about tradition, honor and uniformity – however, he describes what he currently sees in Piti.

“There’s a lot of bud light cans, beer bottles, cigarette packs – all kinds of stuffs that’s left there. And that’s a insult,” said Chris, a k57 caller. “That’s a disgrace whether its family members, or friends, or relatives. That’s a disgrace as a veteran. That is a place of honor, a place of dignity. It’s supposed to be a solemn place where you can go there and honor their sacrifice. The U.S. military is filled with tradition and honor and uniformity. I’m a veteran, and I’m gonna be buried at the Pigo cemetery one day soon.”

As the conversation now stands, it all boils down to whether or not the attempt to exclude Guam’s Cemetery from the rules and regulations that govern all veteran cemeteries throughout the nation, is worth fighting against.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.