A Sacramento woman who discovered her veteran father was not provided with a proper burial is suing the county.
Michele Hernandez’s father, Edward Nellis, died poor and penniless, but he was supposed to have been buried in the veterans’ cemetery, according to local NBC News affiliate KCRA. Instead, he was cremated and placed in a communal grave with hundreds of other people, under one marker–at a different cemetery, Camellia Memorial Lawn.
Camellia Memorial Lawn is not a nationally-designated military cemetery, although the cemetery told Breitbart News that it has a paid section for military families.
“I was sickened. I was just sick to my stomach…He didn’t deserve that at all,” Hernandez told KCRA.
Although Sacramento County has a contract to bury the indigent (or poor) in Camellia Memorial Lawn, state law prohibits burying veterans in so-called “pauper’s” or communal graves, note KCRA. They are entitled to vaults or plots in a veterans’ cemetery for free, so long as they were not dishonorably discharged. Nellis was cremated and placed in a plastic box; his grave marker read “Coroner Cremains 2007,” KCRA notes.
The county admitted to making the mistake in 2013 and reportedly agreed to move his remains to the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon, where his remains should have gone in the first place.
Eight years later, Ellis’s remains are now in their final resting place at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery. But Hernandez told KCRA she is not convinced those are her father’s remains. “I want to believe that that’s him that I’m paying respects to,” she said.
She is suing Sacramento County because she wants to ensure the same thing does not happen to other families with their loved ones.
The mistake also has veterans’ groups concerned. Vivienne Yamamoto called the incident a “travesty,” notes KCRA. Yamamoto is a vice president of Blue Star Moms, a group that handles questions surrounding fallen warriors and Gold Star families (those who lost a relative serving in the Iraq War).
“I’m sure there’s probably others, not just here in Sacramento County but throughout the United States,” she said.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz