— With an evening vote that had unanimous bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, Bill S.3202, the Dignified Burial of Veterans Act that passed through the Senate on Dec. 18, passed through the House, meaning it will move on to President Barack Obama for official passage.
Assuming the bill passes, it will transfer the restoration of Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines to the American Battle Monuments Commission.
And some of the credit for that goes to 11-year-old Avon student Nathaniel Beeler.
Beeler learned of the Clark Veterans Cemetery while studying World War II in school. The cemetery is the relocated home for soldiers who had previously rested at Fort McKinley. Thousands of American soldiers and civilians are buried there, but upkeep has been a struggle due to funding and no clear ownership.
Beeler made it his personal goal to help get a bill passed through Congress that would allow for upkeep of the cemetery. He visited Washington, D.C., to lobby his case and said he was ecstatic when he heard of the reception the bill received.
“I felt really excited, mainly because it’s a big thing passing the House and the Senate with no opposition,” he said. “It’s pretty lucky too. Most times you won’t get all that bipartisanship, so it was a big success.”
His mother, Kim, added, “I couldn’t believe it. I was trying to be optimistic, but with the way things are going in Washington, I thought it could happen, but it probably won’t. We had made plans about what to do next year, and we got the e-mail that it had cleared the Senate on the 18th and we renewed our hope. But once (Speaker of the House) John Boehner dismissed everybody, we thought that was it. It has a lot of things that were good for veterans.”
In addition to the transfer of Clark Veterans Cemetery, the Dignified Burial of Veterans Act requires the U.S. Veterans Administration to furnish caskets for deceased veterans lacking both identifiable next-of-kin and sufficient resources.
Nathaniel said there has been a lot of support since the issue has come to light, and the help of U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita was instrumental.
“I’d like to give credit to Todd Rokita for getting out, supporting me, and encouraging me with the effort,” said Nathaniel, who led the Pledge of Allegiance at one of the congressman’s events this past year.
Rokita issued a statement that read, “I would like to congratulate and highlight the work of one young Hoosier, Nathaniel Beeler of Avon, who lobbied his congressional representation diligently to ensure the American veterans that are at rest in Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines received the honor they are due. Nathaniel made several visits to my offices and those of Senators Lugar and Coats, alerting us to the problems facing the cemetery. Nathaniel’s tenacity in gaining support for those resting in Clark should give Hoosiers hope that the next generation can do great things.”
Nathaniel also said that Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Frank Guinta were extremely helpful in getting the bill passed, and support from local VFW posts helped get the message out.