Where are you going to be Buried – Update

You will recall an earlier post about an article released by Veterans Affairs which stipulated where you can be buried and also what you can and cannot have on your gravestone.  The original post can be read HERE.

A number of members took umbrage at the article and the Association on your behalf wrote to Veterans Affairs seeking clarification.  A copy of the Assn letter to VANZ can be read HERE.

Finally, we have received a response which is detailed below in full.

15 May 2019

Thank you for your email and letter of 10 April. I appreciate you alerting us to ambiguities in the VA News article The final resting place of our veterans. I’m sorry about the delay in responding, and for any confusion and concern, the article caused to our readers.

The article’s last paragraph

The intention of the article was to provide a broad overview of the final resting places for our veterans, information that is often requested by the families of some veterans. I acknowledge that some of our wording could have been more precise.

I hope the following will clarify the phrases you noted as ambiguous or erroneous.

“Is the paragraph trying to say that former military personnel, with or without specified operational service, may choose to be buried in public or private cemeteries, or urupa? Or is it saying that people may find graves of former military personnel outside of the services cemeteries?”

The second of your suggested meanings was the intended one.

“Of most concern…is the sentence ‘Their graves, in these places, may not identify them as military.’ The intent of the wording ‘may not’ is unclean Is it intended in an informatory sense; that is, people may find that former military personnel’s graves in these places have no indication that they were in the armed forces? Or is it intended in a prohibitive sense…lf the latter, what right does VANZ or any other authority have to dictate what a person’s headstone does or does not have regarding their military service?”

The first of your suggested meanings was the intended one. In the context of a public or private cemetery, we’d see it as the family’s role to decide whether, or how, service details are to be displayed.

An exception is when, for a veteran with eligible service, we are ourselves providing funding for the memorial. So long as this is for a public or private cemetery or urupa, it is still for the family to decide whether to inscribe service details; but we would expect any that are inscribed to be accurate. Memorials in service cemeteries, on the other hand, must follow a standard style in the inscription (including of service details) as well as in overall appearance. This is for the sake of uniformity and equality.

“The statement that Navy veterans also have the option of having their ashes scattered at sea is erroneous.

We certainly didn’t intend any suggestion that some Navy personnel might be ineligible for this. Indeed, the article referred readers to a fuller story (two pages on) describing the scattering of two veterans’ ashes from an RNZN vessel, and the service conducted by a Navy chaplain. That second story explained the scattering of ashes at sea as “a ceremony the Navy provides to Navy and ex-Navy personnel”. It also quoted the officiating chaplain to the effect that “the service is for Navy and ex-Navy, New Zealand and foreign, or the partner or child of an exNavy or serving Navy person”

Ongoing work at improving our communications

We continue to put significant effort into improving our communications with veterans and I appreciate your feedback as helping us to do so.

Yours sincerely

Marti Eller
Deputy Head of Veterans’ Affairs

Will we see a retraction or correction in the next issue.  We will wait and see.

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