Guest View: Object now to flawed South Barrington veterans cemetery site

  • Allen J. Lynch

    Allen J. Lynch

 
By Allen J. Lynch
Guest columnist
Posted11/14/2019 5:40 PM

Military veterans are a special group of people.

I say this not because I am one, but because of all the veterans I know.

 

And, someday, I might spend eternity among this same group of people in a veterans cemetery or columbarium -- a place that houses urns and ashes.

Since retiring from my military service and subsequent career with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Illinois Attorney General's Military and Veterans Rights Bureau, I have dedicated my time to helping veterans.

I set up a foundation to provide stopgap funding to veterans and their families who needed help after finishing their military service.

My foundation has provided support as veterans recover from military service and pursue educational opportunities in order to find success in civilian life.

It has been an honor to help those who gave so much of themselves.

But a commitment to veterans doesn't end with those services.

In 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated there were 665,000 veterans in Illinois, with about half of that group over the age of 65.

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That is a lot of people who eventually will need to find a final resting place.

Seeing that trend, the VA has rightfully launched an "urban initiative" to build columbaria around the United States in places with high veteran populations, such as Los Angeles, Indianapolis, New York and, yes, Chicago.

Although it's admirable that the VA is taking seriously the needs of veterans in the Chicago area, the proposed location for a columbarium wouldn't suitably honor veterans with a dignified final resting place.

Located in the northwest suburb of South Barrington, the proposed site is on a back road and borders a retired landfill, a forest preserve, a residential neighborhood and a forthcoming large-scale mixed-use development on a former AT&T campus.

Willow Creek Church -- one of the nation's largest -- is about a mile away as the crow flies.

The site also is not accessible by public transportation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The accompanying smells, traffic, noise, and wildlife from these neighbors will detract from the dignity of the final resting place for those who sacrificed for their country.

It will also take away from the experience of veterans' loved ones who expect a place of peace and reflection uninterrupted by rotten odors, wildlife munching on memorial flowers, noise from a backyard barbecue, or the rumble of heavy construction equipment and honking car horns.

For anyone who has visited Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington, D.C., or Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery near Joliet, national cemeteries are quiet, serene and dignified.

Columbaria are meant to be on smaller plots of land and may not achieve the same grandeur found in more expansive cemeteries.

We can do better than what is being offered.

We owe it to our veterans and their families to provide a dignified resting place.

The proposed site in South Barrington is not such a place.

The VA shouldn't spend millions of dollars on a columbarium in which no veteran wants to end up.

Thankfully, the VA hasn't made a final decision on this location, so there is still time for Chicago-area veterans to raise their voices on this issue and urge the VA to find a more suitable location.

Open comments are being accepted by the VA until Monday, Nov. 18.

(Public comments may be emailed to Marianne.marinucci@va.gov.Marinucci's phone number is 202-632-5458.)

If you, like me, believe that veterans deserve the very best, now is the time to speak up and be heard.

Allen J. Lynch, of Gurnee, a Medal of Honor awardee and U.S. Army sergeant (ret.), is the founder of the Lynch Veterans Assistance Program.

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