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Casey Sheehan's Lonely Grave By: Patrick Poole
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost a year since the “Summer of Love.” No, I’m not talking about 1967 – I mean last summer when the mainstream media and the loony Left fell in love with Cindy Sheehan. Yes, August 2005 was a heady time, when you could read virtually any left-wing blog to find out when the Peace Mom’s most recent bowel movement was and hear how she disposed of it in an eco-friendly manner.

Back then (forever ago, it seems), you could turn on any of the major networks – CBS (Cindy Broadcasting System), NBC (National Broadcast of Cindy), ABC (All ‘Bout Cindy), or even 24-hour coverage on CNN (Cindy News Network) – to hear her sad tale of woe about how she was fighting a one-woman battle against the imperial presidency in honor of her fallen son – deliberately killed by the neo-conservative cabal of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Halliburton while he was serving in Iraq – by courageously confronting the forces of evil by camping out on the front lawn of the President Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch.

What heroism. What bravery.


One prop used by Cindy Sheehan at “Camp Casey” (named in honor of her fallen son, Casey Sheehan) was a fake cemetery filled with 2,000 crosses representing all of those American military service members killed in the line of duty up to that time in the Global War on Terrorism. One of those crosses bore the name of Casey Sheehan, who was killed in action on April 4, 2004. There’s even video of her tending to his fake grave surrounded by representatives of the mainstream media. (It should be noted that at least one Gold Star family didn’t appreciate their son’s death being part of Sheehan’s “Camp Casey” media circus. Gary Qualls of Temple, Texas drove to the location and removed the prop wooden cross bearing his son’s name from Sheehan’s faux cemetery, saying, “I don’t believe in some of the things happening here. I find it disrespectful.”)


But at Casey Sheehan’s real grave in Vacaville-Elmira Cemetery in Vacaville, California, the Peace Mom couldn’t bother with having a headstone or even a wooden cross to mark his passing. Until recently, that is, when critics began to take notice of Casey Sheehan’s lonely unmarked grave.


Heaven knows she should have been aware of this grave oversight. In the January 2006 issue of Vanity Fair, Cindy Sheehan was featured in a macabre two-page pictoral spread of her posing on Casey’s grave. In a pathetic twist of irony, she was being honored by the magazine for the “Best Stand of 2005”.


From the Vanity Fair spread, it seems that her son’s real grave was as much of a prop as his fake grave. It wasn’t until Cindy Sheehan began receiving severe criticisms about the absence of any marker at Casey’s grave that the “Peace Mom” began to respond.


The first indication that she was starting to feel the heat from critics noting her traveling cemetary while her son’s grave went unmarked was seen in a blog entry she posted dated April 11th at Truthout.org (the left-wing website that on May 13th announced that Karl Rove was about to be indicted not long before the special prosecutor announced that he wasn’t subject to prosecution), where she offers a rambling explanation for why her son – dead for more than two years – had no tombstone. Of course, it is four paragraphs before she gets around to answering the question about the absence of a tombstone at Casey’s grave:


We had a Casualty Officer who abandoned us when our mortuary refused to pay the cemetery and told us that the "government sent the money to the mortuary, so now it is your problem. You may have to sue the mortuary." Our government discards and dishonors its own.


So you see, it was George Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove who were to blame for Casey Sheehan’s unadorned grave. But she later gives a more reasonable explanation – her mental instability:


For the first year after Casey was killed, I didn't want to believe it. I didn't want to place a TOMBstone on my son's grave. I didn't want one more marble proof that my son was dead. I couldn't even call where he was buried a "cemetery," I had to call it "Casey's Park." I placed fresh flowers in the cup every week and journaled there almost on a daily basis, and often laid on it and fell asleep and dreamed of my needlessly killed son. Have any of these people who claim that I am pissing on my son's grave even visited him?


In attacking her critics, she misses the very point she raises herself – if any of us had wanted to visit her son’s grave, how would we be able to find it without some kind of marker?


A quick examination of her explanation for this grave oversight raises glaring contradictions with known facts. Her first excuse is to blame the government. Let’s weigh her story with what we know to be true.


Had the Sheehan family chosen to have Casey buried in a National Cemetery (and his combat-related death would have made him eligible for a spot in Arlington National Cemetery), virtually all expenses would have been covered by the military. They didn’t choose that option. Instead, they had him buried in a private cemetery in his hometown – a perfectly legitimate option. In that instance (a private internment), the Department of Defense reimburses actual burial expenses up to $7,700. In addition to that, the actual expense of transporting his remains back to California would also be reimbursed by the government.


However, it wasn’t just the government in on this conspiracy, according to Sheehan; it was also the mortuary's fault for failing to pay the cemetery. It was only a few days after Sheehan publicly accused that owner of the mortuary that handled Casey funeral that he came forward to correct her story, as recorded in the Vacaville Reporter:


Steve Nadeau, the mortuary's owner, said Monday that not only did he properly pay the cemetery, but that he subsidized the process with his own money…


In an e-mail sent to The Reporter Sunday, Nadeau expressed hurt and disbelief at Sheehan's comments. He said that the amount of money the military gave the mortuary for Casey's funeral service and cemetery arrangements didn't even come close to covering the costs.


"Several kind citizens made donations," said Nadeau. "I absorbed the rest."


This was not the only way in which he went above and beyond his responsibilities following Casey's death, said Nadeau. He also provided a stretch limousine and a driver at his expense, he said, and invited the family to go to the airport with him so that he could accompany them. None of this was required, said Nadeau.


"Having known the Sheehan family for many years through St. Mary's Catholic Church where Ms. Sheehan had previously been the youth director, it was my desire to provide care and dignity to Casey and the family. I did this in every respect."


Nadeau also refuted Sheehan's statement that the mortuary finally paid the cemetery only after the family threatened to bring the story to the media.


"This never happened," said Nadeau. "I would stop by the family home as I do most families' homes and check with them on necessary needs, etc."


Nadeau said the military provided his mortuary $5,736 in funding to pay for the funeral service and cemetery arrangements. The funding came in May 2004, said Nadeau, and he paid the cemetery as soon as the costs had been totaled and the donations received.


Now this testimony is very damning for Cindy Sheehan. According to the funeral director, the government came through with funding within a month of Casey’s death, and the cemetery was paid immediately. Anyone who has ever had to deal with getting money from the federal government knows this is lightning speed.


Admittedly, the funeral director’s story is not above questioning. Since Casey’s remains would have been embalmed, dressed and laid out at the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs at Dover Air Force Base even before they were sent to California, and the Defense Department would have covered transportation costs for his remains to be returned to his family, one wonders exactly what the $5,736 was actually paying for? Then again, the “death care” industry is known for its extraordinary product and service markups.


But what about Casey’s tombstone? This is where Cindy Sheehan’s excuses start to fall apart entirely.


In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides virtually all veterans free headstones and grave markers at no cost to the family. From personal experience, I know that it only takes 2-3 months once the VA Form 40-1330 is submitted for these to be delivered directly to the cemetery. In most cases, private cemeteries will lay a base and install the veteran’s headstone or marker at no charge.


Perhaps “Peace Mom” was too busy with her anti-war activism to bother filling out the one page form?


Finally in May, Casey Sheehan’s grave finally received its headstone. In another article by the Vacaville Reporter (May 27th), Cindy Sheehan was quoted as saying that she had to pay for it out of her own pocket.


Sheehan said she had paid for the tombstone herself and was part of a family effort to put it up, even though its installation saddened her.


"It is important for the rest of Casey's family to have one," she wrote Friday. "I guess the pain of seeing it etched in marble that he is dead is another pain I will have to deal with."


…The headstone was very expensive, Sheehan wrote. She said that the government should have paid for it because of its responsibility for his death. But Sheehan said money is not the main issue.


Surely we should feel some pity for poor Cindy Sheehan for having to fork out the money for her son’s tombstone, even though he died in combat in service to his country? Well, again, this is where Sheehan’s story doesn’t fit the facts.


What she apparently forgot to tell the world in her bitter defense of her son’s unmarked grave was that the funeral reimbursement from the Defense Department wasn’t the only money she received from the government for Casey’s death. At least one former military official noted last month before Casey’s tombstone was installed that Sheehan was the beneficiary of a $250,000 Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy. And legal documents filed in the divorce case of Patrick and Cindy Sheehan show that there was another Prudential Life Insurance policy (no. 43520001432577) paid at the time of his decease.


What has not been discussed (and Sheehan would be likely never to admit to) is that in addition to having actual funeral expenses reimbursed by the Defense Department and the SGLI and Prudential life insurance policies, Sheehan also received a $100,000 death gratuity from the government to cover miscellaneous expenses not covered by the DoD reimbursement. The $100,000 death gratuity is paid to all deaths in the line of duty retroactive to October 7, 2001, the beginning of post-9/11 military operations in Afghanistan.


While the description of Casey’s headstone described by the Vacaville Reporter sounds as if it is a fitting marker for a fallen hero killed in the defense of his country and that also reflects his personal interests, clearly the cost of it isn’t near the $100,000 Cindy Sheehan received from taxpayers to cover such expenses.


Now people might be led to think that the Feds get a big chunk of that money back in taxes. Cindy Sheehan even said last August at a Veterans for Peace rally that she was going to refuse to pay her 2004 taxes:


Another thing that I'm doing is - - my son was killed in 2004, so I'm not paying my taxes for 2004. If I get a letter from the IRS, I'm gonna say, you know what, this war is illegal; this is why this war is illegal. This war is immoral; this is why this war is immoral. You killed my son for this. I don't owe you anything. And if I live to be a million, I won't owe you a penny.

And I want them to come after me, because unlike what you've been doing with the war resistance, I want to put this frickin' war on trial. And I want to say, "You give me my son, and I'll pay your taxes."


What she forgot to mention in her tirade is that the $350,000 paid to her by the government ($250,000 SGLI insurance policy and the $100,000 death gratuity) is entirely tax free.


But if Cindy Sheehan is correct that she had to pay for the monument out of her own pocket (even though she admitted to the Vacaville Reporter that her estranged husband, Patrick, handles all matters relating to Casey’s grave site, a fact confirmed by Steve Nadeau, the funeral director that handled Casey’s arrangements), the question has to be asked:


What happened to the hundreds of thousands of tax free dollars that Cindy Sheehan received from the U.S. Government for her son’s death?


One has only had to follow Sheehan’s anti-war activism over the past year to reasonably conclude that the money paid to Cindy Sheehan has been going to finance her globetrotting activist lifestyle. Yes, while Casey Sheehan’s grave went unmarked, his mother was spending the money given to her to pay for his funeral expenses having tea parties with Third-World tinpot dictators, like her BFF, Comrade Hugo Chavez. 


From all accounts, Casey Sheehan was the kind of guy that you would enjoy knowing. His commitment to his country and the Global War on Terror that it is prosecuting was seen in the heroic actions that led to his death in Sadr City and in his voluntary reenlistment in 2004 knowing he would probably be sent back to Iraq. His death, like the deaths of all members of the military who die in service to their country, was tragic and a loss to all Americans.


But perhaps even more tragic is how Casey Sheehan’s mother has taken to politically trafficking in her son’s death advancing a cause that many close to him have said he would never have agreed with. His mother’s lack of concern about caring for and appropriately honoring her son’s remains while using her son’s unmarked grave as a photo prop for Vanity Fair and also erecting fake grave markers at her media events should tell us all we need to know about Cindy Sheehan.


With no thanks apparently due to her, Casey Sheehan’s grave has the marker he deserves.


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Patrick Poole is a regular contributor to Frontpagemag.com and an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military.

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