Gold Star Mom Fights VA to Be Buried With Son

Today is the first anniversary of Spc. Corey Shea's death in Iraq and his mother has a simple plea.

"All I want is to be with my son for eternity," Gold Star mom Denise Anderson told

But Anderson is not entitled to be buried with her son in the military cemetery in Bourne, Mass. That is an honor reserved for the spouses and children of military veterans.

"He didn't have a chance to get married and have children. He was only 21 when he died. I don't want him to be alone," said Anderson.

Anderson's request for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs on the burial rule was denied.

Corey Shea served with the 3rd Cavalry Division and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas before shipping out to Iraq in 2007.

Less than a year later, in November 2008, an Iraqi soldier turned on his American colleagues and began firing. Shea and another soldier were killed and six others were wounded.

Anderson raised Shea as a single mother and for a long time it was just the two of them living on "a lot of love" but little money. Shea's family described him as a "giving person" who would "do anything for anybody."

The bond between mother and child only strengthened during his tour in Iraq. Shea would often call home on Sundays. "I missed his last call. He called my cell phone and I missed the call," said Anderson as she began to cry. "I will never hear his voice again."

Anderson decided to bury Corey in the U.S. military cemetery in Bourne, Mass., because "he deserved to be buried honorably with his fellow soldiers." Anderson visits his grave a couple of times a week.

Spouses and dependent children can be buried in the same plot as a fallen soldier. Even an adult child of a veteran can be buried in a veteran's cemetery, but not a parent.

That's when this anguished mom got angry. She wrote letters, contacted state lawmakers and, finally, got some action.

With the help of Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the Corey Shea Act passed the House last week by a vote of 382-2. The legislation would allow biological or adoptive parents the right to be buried with their children if the veteran has no living spouse or minor children. The bill still needs to win approval in the Senate.

Anderson's personal battle has sparked intense reaction. A recent column about the issue prompted these online responses, "A VA cemetery is not a free-for-all" and "Veteran's cemeteries are for veterans."

Some veteran's groups raised concerns about who could be considered a parent and about the limited space in military cemeteries. Most plots in veterans' cemeteries have room for three caskets. But the way the bill is currently written parents would only be considered for burial if the veteran had no surviving spouse or dependants. And foster parents and step-parents will not be considered for internment. The VA currently supports the legislation.

But AMVETS (American Veterans), a leading advocacy group for veterans, issued this statement to "We certainly empathize with Denise Anderson and other Gold Star parents who desire to be laid to rest with their children who gave all for our nation. However, AMVETS position is that military burial benefits should continue to be available only to veterans, their spouses and their minor children."

In addition, the organization believes that extending burial benefits to parents of veterans, however well-intended, could create unintended consequences.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...