MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Tuesday morning, U.S. Representative Chris Pappas (D-NH-01) gathered with New Hampshire National Guard Adjutant General Major General David Mikolaities and other spokespeople for the Granite State’s veterans’ community at the New Hampshire National Guard Armory to mark the enactment of the Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act.
The act prohibits the Department of Veterans Affairs from restricting grants for state-owned veterans’ cemeteries from interring members of military reservists or their families if those reservists or families have not met the minimum requirements to be buried in a federal cemetery.
Currently only North Dakota allows reservists to be buried in state-owned veterans’ cemeteries, but Pappas believes this new law will help New Hampshire and other state legislatures to allow reservists to be buried in state-owned cemeteries in the near future. He also hopes that military reservists will also gain access to federally-operated veterans cemeteries in the future as well to honor their service.
“This was an idea that many of my colleagues hadn’t heard too much about, either from their state (National) Guards or their own state veterans’ cemeteries,” said Pappas. “And so, it took a lot of education and convincing to get people to figure out a way to get here.”
Manchester Health Department Director Anna Thomas, a retired major with 16 years’ service in the Massachusetts Army Reserves and later New Hampshire Army National Guard, could now be interred in the New Hampshire State Veterans’ Cemetery in Boscawen if the New Hampshire General Court and Governor Chris Sununu pass legislation they are now able to pass thanks to this new federal law.
She was given the honor of seeing her father laid to rest in Boscawen in 2020 and was grateful that she could now theoretically join him whereas before her service did not qualify her for that honor.
“I served with many people who meet the same criteria and yet were not really considered for this particular honor,” Thomas said. “So, I feel incredibly blessed and just deeply touched that we had such great leadership with Congressman Pappas and all of our New Hampshire Congressional Delegation and military leaders who recognized this as well and saw this as important enough to see this through.”