Veterans Buried Without Military Honors or Families at Their Gravesides

Arlington woman fights to relax restrictions at national cemeteries

NBCUniversal, Inc.

The daughter of a WWII veteran is urging the government to relax coronavirus restrictions on military funerals, which means no taps, no honor guard, and no loved ones at the graveside.

"What we'll miss is we don't get to pay an honor to him in the fashion he deserves,” Lisa Hulse of Arlington said.

Hulse’s father, Richard Runnels, entered the U.S. Army in 1943, a year after he graduated high school. He was among the first soldiers in France after D-Day.

"He has a bronze star and purple heart. He was shot in the face,” Hulse said.

Later in life, he married and became a chiropractor.

Runnels, of Fort Worth, died Saturday at the age of 95.

He'll be buried at DFW National Cemetery on Friday.

His family always thought when this day came, he'd get full military honors, including rifle volleys from an honor guard.

But because of the coronavirus, that won't happen.

For Runnels, or for any veteran at any national cemetery.

"Things have changed,” DFW National Cemetery assistant director Doug Maddox said. “We need to be safe and practice our distancing and so forth to ensure everybody is safe."

The Veterans Administration, which operates nearly 150 national cemeteries, imposed the restrictions soon after the Coronavirus outbreak.

Families are limited to 10 people for funerals, and they have to watch from their cars – sometimes 150 yards away.

"It's almost like burying him as though he's a John Doe. That’s what it feels like,” Hulse said.

Choosing the 10 will be difficult, she said, because her father had a big family, including 35 great-grandchildren.

Maddox said his heart goes out to the families and he would like to return to normal as much as they would.

"I would just like to say to the families, we are suffering just like you are,” Maddox said. “We have a certain standard we're accustomed to at DFW National Cemetery. It hurts us, all of us."

He said it’s unclear how long the restrictions will remain in place.

"Everybody is anxious for this to be over and we're ready to get back to business as usual,” Maddox said. “Unfortunately we just don't know when that is going to be."

Hulse, who just returned to work as a hairstylist, said she doesn’t understand why she can be around customers and people can dine in restaurants but family members can’t attend a funeral – even wearing masks.

"The heartache on top of the heartache of losing somebody is that you cannot celebrate their life before you put them down,” Hulse said. "I just think that common sense needs to come into it and a little heart too."

Contact Us