Several social media users have voiced their criticisms after photos of a patio built out of military gravestones were shared on Facebook.
The photos were posted by 55-year-old Navy veteran Ed Harkreader last week, the St. Louis Patch reported. He reportedly heard about the arrangement from a friend and drove to the property in Ozark County, Missouri, to investigate himself.
He took pictures of the patio and tried to contact the property owner to no avail. The photos show what appear to be military headstones, some with the names of veterans and their spouses still engraved on them, fashioned into a patio and staircase.
“This isn’t the way you should use military headstones,” said Harkreader, who served in the Navy for 22 years. “This is disrespectful of military veterans.”
Chris Erbe, the spokesman for the National Cemetery Administration in Washington, said officials learned about the patio through Harkreader’s Facebook post. The inspector general's office of the Department of Veteran Affairs is currently investigating.
It is not known at this time where the headstones came from. Erbe said that markers with errors or typos are supposed to be destroyed and that stones are often replaced rather than re-inscribed when spouses die and are buried at the same location.
Older military headstones are also sometimes replaced, but the old stones are also supposed to be destroyed, according to Erbe.
“They are not to be used for any kind of home improvement project,” he said, according to Patch.
The markers in Harkreader’s photos indicate that they are relatively new, with several death dates marked in the 2000s. Several social media users expressed their disappointment with the photos.
“This is horrible... How can anyone disrespect these brave Americans and think of the shock that will strike the families....Everyone should be made aware....senators, law enforcement, The VA, VFW,” wrote one user.
“I called and talked directly with the VA in DC folks,” wrote another. “It's ILLEGAL. We have people going next week to get exact address to give to VA.”
This isn’t the first time military headstones were used for a home improvement project.
Last month, a former employee of the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery was arraigned in federal court after taking discarded headstones and using them to pave his carport, according to reports. Officials believe the employee had been taking the stones home a few at a time over several years.
Photo Credit: Facebook