After fate brought him to a Glendale cemetery, Michael Hogan realized that his World War I veteran grandfather’s gravesite deserved a military headstone.
Hogan had lost his grandfather’s military records around the time his father died in 1987 and proving his grandfather’s service was difficult.
For the last few years, the Glendale resident was writing government agencies to try and confirm his grandfather’s military service, but Hogan said the responses were not favorable.
“It was a painstaking situation for me,” Hogan said.
But with help from U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village) the headstone was delivered to Hogan’s grandfather’s New Hampshire cemetery last week.
Hogan’s grandfather died in 1946.
Hogan contacted the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ records center and was told the records were destroyed in a 1973 fire inside a St. Louis storage facility where they were being held.
He then got in touch with the VA hospital in the Bronx, where his grandfather was being treated before his death, and was told the hospital records were in storage “somewhere in New Jersey.”
Working with Veterans Affairs, Turner helped locate the records and a military headstone was delivered Dec. 16 to the New Hampshire cemetery where Hogan’s grandfather is buried.
“I actually gave up hope,” Hogan said Friday. “It was like going in a circle and I wasn’t getting anywhere,” he said, saying that the agencies were asking the same information from him that he was requesting.
Until April, when Hogan was following a cat into All Faiths Cemetery, he did not know that veterans interred at public cemeteries were entitled to military headstones.
The headstone is part of the benefits that veterans receive, a regulation that was changed around 20 years ago.
“It’s part of our constituent services and the veterans are quite deserving of respectful treatment,” Turner said in a brief phone interview last Thursday.
It was unclear why it took so long for Hogan to receive confirmation of his grandfather’s service, but Turner noted that there was a huge backlog of 4,000 letters and e-mails waiting for him when he took office in September, replacing former Rep. Anthony Weiner.
“I’m lost for words,” Hogan said. “I don’t know how to thank them. It was really an emotional moment for me, I didn’t really think this was going to happen. I’m so grateful this time of year.”
Hogan recently celebrated a birthday and said his grandfather’s military service made his father proud.
“I think this is a gift for both of us,” he said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2011 Community News Group
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