Long waits to bury loved ones at vets cemetery called 'unacceptable'

KANEOHE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Families of veterans are waiting weeks to bury their loved ones at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe, in a situation the state says is regrettable but unavoidable given the number of burials handled weekly.

Joe Kuhio Lewis says his grandmother, Viola, died Feb. 19. Her burial at the cemetery won't happen until April 2.

She'll be buried next to her husband, Merchant Marine Devering Lewis, who delivered supplies for the troops during World War II.

"It's just not sitting well with any of us that she's going to be in the morgue for almost a month and a half," Lewis said.

The cemetery told the family that was earliest the burial could be scheduled.

"I just feel it's unacceptable. Our veterans and their families who fought in the war passed through their service to have to wait that long and carry that burden and mourning for so long," Lewis said.

But a state military spokesman says the cemetery can only do three burials per day. And with the rate that veterans are dying, there's a growing backlog.

"You have a very large number of veterans who are elderly and you are experiencing a large number of veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam passing away," said public affairs officer Lt. Col. Charles Anthony. "All in a very short period of time."

Burial ceremonies are done with dignity and Anthony says it not unusual for the wait to be three weeks.

"We have a tremendous amount of sympathy for the family, but the point is every veterans cemetery wants to do right by those families," he said.

It's a delicate predicament felt by veterans cemeteries across the country.

Lewis believes veteran families deserve more and plans to start an online petition as they search for peace and closure.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.