Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Actby Representative Susan W. Brooks
Posted on 2013-12-11
BROOKS of Indiana. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the
distinguished gentleman from Florida, Chairman Miller, and Subcommittee
Chairman Runyan for bringing up this important piece of legislation
today, S. 1471.
Mr. Speaker, during this season of Christmas, we seek to surround ourselves with our family and friends to give thanks for the blessings in our lives. But unfortunately, one family from my district will be spending yet another Christmas season without their wife, without their mother, without their daughter-in-law because of a senseless act of violence that took place at an apartment complex in Indianapolis, Indiana, on May 30, 2012.
On that date, Michael Anderson, a deranged Army veteran, went on a shooting rampage that took the life of Alicia Koehl, who was an apartment complex manager. After taking her life, he also severely injured three others. Mr. Anderson shot Alicia 13 times before taking his own life.
Alicia's killing left a hole in communities throughout Indiana. She was not only a mother to two young children and a loving wife but she was also a Girl Scout leader, the Volunteer of the Year at Spring Mill Elementary School, and an active member of her church.
Paul Koehl, Alicia's husband, provided testimony to the House Veterans' Affairs Committee that Alicia was the ``glue that held our family together.'' He continued that her motto in life was ``live, laugh, love'' and that the saying could be found in almost every room of their home. He finally relayed her contagious optimism by telling that her smile and gentle nature never failed to light up a room.
So it is no wonder that her passing triggered an outpouring of sympathy throughout the State, with candlelight vigils being held and the Indianapolis City Council formally memorializing her as someone ``whose very presence [[Page H7642]] in the community is a stabilizing influence which lends a sense of purpose and direction.'' Mr. Speaker, you can only imagine the indignation when, in the midst of their grief, family and friends found out that the killer of Alicia was allowed burial in a national cemetery with full military honors. This is in spite of a Federal law explicitly forbidding the Department of Veterans Affairs from interring anyone who has committed a capital crime, including those never formally convicted.
At the request of Alicia's family and friends, Senator Coats and I began working on this case to rectify the mistake made by the National Cemeteries Association. The NCA informed us that they lacked the authority to disinter Michael Anderson or the ability to rectify their horrific mistake if something like this should ever happen again.
Mr. Speaker, this is unacceptable. I am outraged not only that the Koehl family has had to endure yet another injustice after Alicia's life was needlessly cut short but also that our brave servicemen and - women who, in some cases, have given the ultimate sacrifice to their Nation are buried next to a murderous criminal.
The legislation before the House today will simply give the Department of Veterans Affairs the ability to reconsider interment of veterans who lost their privilege of interment in our national cemeteries by committing a capital offense. Our Nation's cemeteries shouldn't be tarnished because of a legislative technicality, and the bill before us will close this loophole. Our bravest men and women should be buried next to fellow heroes, and today we can make sure they always are.
So I am proud to be a sponsor of the House version of this bill that garnered the support of all Hoosier Representatives, and I want to thank them for coming together in a bicameral and bipartisan way to get behind this meaningful and important piece of legislation.
I want to encourage all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come together to help give closure to the Koehl family, restore a sense of honor to our national cemeteries, and improve protocol so that an injustice like this will never happen again.
Mr. MICHAUD. Mr. Speaker, today we can take a meaningful step to ensure the sanctity of our national cemeteries. These grounds are hallowed for the men and women who fought selflessly on our behalf.
With that, I encourage my colleagues to support this legislation and yield back the balance of my time.