Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kicked Out of the Cemetery

Well! Have I got a tale for you! Yesterday, my husband and I took our daily walk over at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. It's a beautiful and peaceful place. It meanders up and down hills and there must be thousands of white gravestones. We walk along and each time, we read the names, or when we stop to rest, we take note of the service given to our country - WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam. We notice how long their lives were, or how short. We wonder about them. Often we say little prayers for them. We stay on the pavement; we do not disturb the graves in any way.

Yesterday, as we passed the stone house in the middle of the cemetery, an offical cemetery vehicle pulled up. A man began unloading things from the truck onto the steps. As we passed, he stopped us and said, "As the Director of this cemetery, I'm afraid that I have to tell you that it is unlawful to take walks in any national cemetery in the United States."

To which we said, "WHAAAAAAATTTTTTT? You can't be serious!"

He went on to say that this is true of ALL national cemeteries, that you are not allowed to do anything that is considered "recreation" or "exercise" in a national cemetery and that this includes walking. He said that he had been watching us for several days and it was clear that we were there to walk, not to visit any particular grave.

At this point, we were both shocked and getting angry. We asked him, as taxpayers, who pays for this cemetery? He said that we all do. We said that my husband, Dick, aka RVPainter, is a veteran of service in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam era. He didn't care. He said, "Write to your congressman."

We said, "We will."

When we got home, I wrote to the VA, which oversees the national cemetery system. I also looked at Arlington National Cememtery's website, where they say that people "walk through the cemetery like a botanical garden." They do have specific rules about biking, but not walking. I wrote to the VA Cabinet Director under Governor Susanna Martinez. I wrote to our congressman.

Then I found a website that actually lists the regulations pertaining to national cemeteries. This is found in the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, current as of Jan. 12, 2012. Part 12 of the regulations pertains to national cemeteries.

Part 12.11 covers recreational activities and says:
"Engaging in recreational activities is prohibed."

Part 12.3 provides definitions, including the definition of recreational activity. The following is the exact wording of that definition:

Recreational activity means any form of athletics, sport or other leisure pursuit or event, whether organized or spontaneous, that is engaged in by one or more persons for the primary purpose of exercise, relaxation or enjoyment, including but not limited to the following: jogging, racing, skating, skateboarding, ball playing, kite flying, model airplane flying, throwing objects through the air, sunbathing, bicycling and picknicking. This term does not include walking, hiking or casual strolling.

There it is. Specifically excluded from the definition of "recreation" are walking, hiking or casual strolling. That's what we were doing.

Now, I don't know why the DIRECTOR of the cemetery would not know his own regulations. Perhaps he just doesn't want people walking through HIS cemetery.

At first, we were upset because we thought we had come up against a very stupid rule. Now we are upset because we think we've come up against a person who thinks he has the right to impose his own rules, ones that are not actual rules! Maybe we're wrong about this, but I don't think so. I KNOW you can walk through Arlington National Cemetery! Anyway, Dick plans to call him tomorrow and tell him what we've found with the regulations, and that unless the Director can provide a legal, legislative document that contradicts what we found, we plan to continue our peaceful walks through the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

Stay tuned. Oh, and pop over to RVPainter's blog to see what he's been saying about this.



27 comments:

  1. Good for you! That guy sounds like a real dope.

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  2. Al, I am tired of people who cut corners in their jobs and make stuff up. Especially people whose jobs are paid by us taxpayers! If he's wrong, there's no good excuse for it. Thanks for the support.

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  3. Sounds like a guy on a power trip. I'd contact his direct supervisor and complain.

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  4. Karen, yes. The VA Cabinet guy should be his boss, I think. It's just one of those things that seems wrong!

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  5. Good for you. Here in Guelph Ontario our very beautiful Woodlawn Park Cemetery is open to walkers and bikers although I do believe they draw the line at picnics but you never know. I have seen people painting, taking photos, sitting on benches enjoying the sun. Everyone I have seen is very respectful. It is one of my favourite places in the city.

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  6. Delores, cemeteries are beautiful peaceful places where we can/should be able to go to be reminded of how precious life and freedom are. Your cemetery sounds lovely.

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  7. Doesn't it amaze that some people with use any opportunity to exercise authority over others? Sounds like an ego trip he was having.

    ;D

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  8. Dear Melissa,
    I'm glad you followed up that walk by immediately gathering the proof of how wrong that cemetery director was. That's what I call "being pro-active"!

    Congratulations and good walking!

    Peace.

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  9. Hey WilyBCool, it really is disturbing. How many people has he told this to, who just believed him and went away? I'm sure it makes his job easier not to have all us bothersome "walkers" invading his space...

    Hi Dee - Thanks my dear!

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  11. GWhat? That is insane. I grew up right next to a little cemetary (literally on the other side of the pasture) and my sister and I used to go over there to make grave rubbings and to visit the graves and wonder at the people who had lived there. There are stories on those gravestones that I still wonder about--ones that were really sad, like the two little stones side-by-side that both belonged to babies, and both had the same parents. There were also four veterans buried there. I took my kids to a cemetery recently. I can't imagine being told you weren't allowed to walk through a cemetery!

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  12. Laura, my experience has been the same as yours. Cemeteries are rich with the stories of people's lives. When I was little, we'd go all over as you did - taking in those stories. National cemeteries have more restrictions, but not against talking a walk there!

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  13. Information is the key!! Yay for looking up the actual wording of the law! Now you are armed and dangerous proving how words and pen are mightier than the sword in smiting ignorance!!

    Hope you quote this little bit of the regulation that man forgot to read!

    Take care
    x

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  14. I am staying tuned for sure. Wow.

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  15. Just wrong on so many levels, Melissa! I could kind of understand it if you and your hubby were young thugs, up to vandalism or loud and disrespectful behavior--for him to grasp at straws to try and boot you out. But really? Paying your respects, taking a quiet walk. He must be a power-monger, I think. Such a shame. Sorry that you were treated this way. :-( I hope you get some answers. Wow, just wow. The more I think about it--what about Gettysburg?? People can't walk through the cemetery at Gettysburg? A lot of tourists every year, reenactments over the 4th of July weekend...

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  16. Off track. :-) I stopped to tell you that I posted a link on my blog to this blog, and mentioned you in a blog award. I know we are all busy. And it might be something you just can't get to. But I wanted you to know that you were included. Your blog is very sweet :-) Well, maybe not today... :-)

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  17. Old Kitty, BIP, and Teresa, thanks for the supportive words. Teresa - your reaction was like mine - at first I was mad because it "seemed" wrong. Then I second-guessed myself a little, then the more I thought about it, the more wrong it seemed. Then when I found the actual regulation, it REALLY seemed wrong. The big national cemeteries encourage visitors of course - most of whom don't have a loved one buried there! There are regs about activities, but WALKING is encouraged.

    Teresa - that you for the award. I am nice, but no one should mistake that for meaning they can kick me around ;) Thank you for the award.
    xo

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  18. Wow, someone's on a power trip. That's ludicrous. I'm glad you and your husband are fighting him on this one.
    xoRobyn

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  19. Thanks Robyn. I tend to be too laid back and peace-loving about things, but this matters! Even small abuses of power and violations of our rights matter!

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  20. Good luck. I can't even see any reason why he would want to ban walkers. Sigh. Others have said it for me. Power tripping.

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  21. Ha! Thought you were going to say you were kicked out of the cemetery for being alive! Some people! What a miserable man that guy must be...he needs a dose of cheerfulness.

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  22. Elephant's child, I know. Maybe he thinks if he lets us old folks walk there, next thing there'll be, you know kids!

    Deborah - that's so cute! Though we're so quiet, we fit right in. :-)

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  23. Good for you! I'd have a copy of the regulations in my pocket and stroll away!! ;)

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  24. I'm proud of you for following up on it! Either he's ignorant or just on a power trip as someone else mentioned. Sounds like he needs to get a life.

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

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  25. Rita - that's what we'll do.

    Megan, it's one or the other of those!

    xoxo to you both

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  26. I never heard of anything like that. I guess I understand some of it for obvious reasons but I think anyone should be allowed to walk through a cemetery. I can't wait to see what he says!

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  27. Debby - right - no frisbee or playing catch! Some things make sense. I thought one purpose of these cemeteries is so we could all have access and remember the sacrifices.

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