Two members of the House of Representatives have decided to use Memorial Day as an occasion to demand the removal of the graves of three German soldiers from veterans’ cemeteries.
There are two headstones for German soldiers at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, each of which features a swastika inside a German cross and the phrase, “He died far from his home for the Fuhrer, people, and fatherland.” Another similar headstone is at Fort Douglas Post Cemetery in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) and Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), who lead the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie which read in part:
Allowing these gravestones with symbols and messages of hatred, racism, intolerance, and genocide is especially offensive to all the veterans who risked, and often lost, their lives defending this country and our way of life… a stain on the hallowed ground where so many veterans and their families are laid to rest. Families who visit their loved ones, who are buried in the same cemeteries with the Nazi soldiers whom they fought against, should never have to confront symbols of hatred that are antithetical to our American values… There is no excuse for VA to continue to maintain these headstones.
The gravestones were created before the Veterans Administration assumed responsibility for the two cemeteries, and the VA has left them in place because of a federal law requiring protection of historic resources for the benefit of present and future generations. But Schultz and Carter called the failure to remove them “callous, irresponsible and unacceptable.”
I completely disagree. Unless I am misunderstanding their letter, Schultz and Carter are demanding that headstones for dead soldiers be taken down. That is nothing short of unconscionable.
It is true that the government of Nazi Germany practiced hatred, racism, intolerance, and genocide, as Schultz and Carter point out. But the three soldiers whose graves are in question did not necessarily do any of these things. And even if they did, do Schlutz and Carter believe that any person who is not perfect does not deserve to have a gravestone? I doubt any of the American soldiers buried in these cemeteries was a perfect person; no matter how heroic or honorable, every person has flaws. Not to mention the fact that the U.S. government and way of life are far from perfect as well. Where do Schultz and Carter think the line should be drawn between those who deserve a gravestone and those who do not?
I fail to see the problem with allowing three graves of soldiers from the losing side of a war to exist among thousands of graves of soldiers from the winning side. There is no rule that only graves of soldiers from the winning side of a war should be allowed to exist. There is no right to go through life without ever seeing something that you dislike or disagree with.
To describe the graves of three German soldiers who died far from home as a “stain” on hallowed ground is ridiculous.
Not only is it incorrect for Schultz and Carter to say that there is no excuse for the VA to maintain the gravestones; there are actually two completely valid reasons for the VA to do so. First, as the VA has argued, the gravestones are historical artifacts, and the world would be a worse place without them. Second, removing the gravestones would be incredibly disrespectful to these soldiers who fought bravely for a cause that they believed in. Obviously, their cause is one that the vast majority of people in America and the world today do not believe in. But that does not justify trashing the memory of these soldiers by desecrating their graves.
Ironically, Schultz and Carter are demonstrating hatred and intolerance by calling so vehemently for the removal of these gravestones. To remove the gravestones would truly be callous, irresponsible, and unacceptable.
Every soldier deserves to be remembered, no matter which side he or she fought for.