VFW asks you to stop leaving remains at the Vietnam Wall

Leaving ashes at the wall is becoming a bit of a problem

Jake Hughes
February 02, 2018 - 9:57 am

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller/U.S. Army/Sipa USA)

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The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall gets thousands of visitors each year. Some are people interested in our nation's military history and some are just tourists. But a portion of them are fellow Vietnam vets, visiting the memorial of their fellow service members. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Wall, so it will likely receive more than its normal amount of visitors. It has become custom to leave flowers or trinkets at the wall to honor of fallen comrades, but recently, a disturbing trend has begun at the wall: leaving the remains of dead vets.

Gordon Castro was a Vietnam veteran who died six years ago. On his death bed, his last wish was to be laid to rest at the Memorial Wall. Upon his death, his little brother forged a stainless steel box for his brother's remains. He glued on his Purple Heart, his Infantryman's badge, and the 1st Cavalry Division insignia, then drove the box from Corpus Christi to the Wall. Sadly, his brother must not have know that the Wall does not allow people to be laid to rest there. Currently, the pristine box containing Gordon Castro's final remains are being kept in a metal locker, complete with taped-over windows, in a building owned by the National Park Service.

Joe Davis, the Communications Director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, says that more than 70 urns containing the ashes of fallen Vietnam vets have been left at the Wall. "People drop off the remains thinking that will be their final resting place, but unfortunately, it's not, because they are not allowed to be dropped there," says Joe. He also says that a metal locker is not appropriate for a vet's final resting place. There are numerous other national cemeteries that allow ashes to be scattered on their grounds, but the Wall isn't a cemetery. It's in the middle of the National Mall, between lots of different monuments. There are also a lot of committees and councils that require approval before any remains can be scattered.

Currently, the VFW is trying to spread awareness on this issue, while at the same time attempting to find ears in Congress, so that someone can address it. "What we need to do is find a way forward," says Joe. "Because the artifacts are going to keep coming, and I am very sure the remains will, as well."