Pueblo vets deserve burial close to home
By Doug Sterner
Fifteen years ago Pueblo was recognized by the United States Congress as America's Home of Heroes as the only American city at that time to have four native sons who were living recipients of our highest award for military valor, the Medal of Honor.
It should not, however, be surprising that Pueblo would produce four such heroes in three different wars over the span of only 24 years. Pueblo is the Home of Heroes not only because of the four men who earned the Medal of Honor, but also because of the thousands of others who served with pride and patriotism when duty called.
The 2000 Census reflected that Pueblo numbered among the top five cities in America - with populations over 100,000 - in the percentage of living World War II veterans. Such dedication to service is endemic to our community, which believes strongly in duty, honor, country and in the obligation to serve.
In 1970, Pueblo had only 5 percent of Colorado's population, yet during the Vietnam War of that period, Pueblo sons and daughters represented nearly 10 percent of our state's more than 600 soldiers killed in action.
Our city today also is home of the Colorado State Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Not only do the members of our community believe in personal service, we are committed to remembering all those who have served. Eight years ago, two of our Medal of Honor recipients died within months of each other.
Bill Crawford, who earned the Medal of Honor in World War II, was buried at the Air Force Academy cemetery, having established a relationship with that institution in the later years of his life when he worked there as a lowly but dedicated janitor.
Col. Carl Sitter, who earned the Silver Star in World War II and the Medal of Honor in Korea, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, where today 383 other Medal of Honor recipients rest.
Another of our Medal recipients, Raymond G. "Jerry" Murphy, also was buried elsewhere.
Murphy was born and raised in Pueblo, and during the Korean War became the third Puebloan in less than 10 years to earn the Medal of Honor. In later years he chose to live in Albuquerque, N.M., where he worked in the Veterans Administration to help other veterans. When Mr. Murphy became seriously ill a few years ago, however, he returned home to Pueblo, to live in the Veterans Nursing Home there.
On April 6, 2007, Mr. Murphy passed away in his hometown of Pueblo. Although funeral services were held here, Mr. Murphy subsequently was transported far south to the Santa Fe National Cemetery for burial.
You see, there exists today no veterans cemetery within 90 miles of Pueblo to insure that Mr. Murphy or, for that matter Mr. Crawford or Mr. Sitter, could have returned home for their final journey.
In point of fact, the VA Cemetery Construction Policy failed these three distinguished heroes, as well as the people of Pueblo who remember them fondly.
It continues to fail the families of a city of more than 100,000 citizens, comprising one of the highest percentages of World War II veteran - and, in fact, a uniquely high percentage of veterans of all recent wars - who must travel more than 100 miles and navigate the traffic of metropolitan Denver to pay respects to loved ones buried at Fort Logan.
Please consider the needs of our city as well as the entire Southern Colorado region, remembering our obligation to our veterans and their families, and provide for a much-needed national cemetery in our area so that our heroes will rest in peace and dignity where they belong - at home in Southern Colorado