Mourners Banned From Leaving Christmas Trees, Presents At Soldiers’ Graves

RIVERSIDE (CBS) — Mourners at Riverside National Cemetery try to “share” Christmas with their loved ones buried there.

But, for practical and aesthetic reasons, they are not allowed to bring trees, balloons or many other celebratory items and leave them on graves.

That policy has been in place for years, but CBS2’s Greg Mills reports, one that has not been enforced.

That is, until a new manager took over this year. Many mourners are ignoring the signs that dictate what items can and can’t be placed on graves, including a family he spoke with Wednesday.

About the only thing on the approved list, flowers.

The Henderson family is not bringing items on the not-approved list just to be defiant, reports Mills,  it’s just the only way they feel they can “celebrate” Christmas with their husband/father who died six months ago today.

Algiovanta Henderson was a Staff Sergeant in the US Army.

The notes and Merry Christmas balloon brought by his daughters, Joslyn and Arianna, off-limits.

Says Henderson, “That means everything to us. That’s the only thing we can give him. We can’t buy presents anymore.”

His widow, Jennifer, and the couple’s two daughters visit his grave once a week.

Jim Ruester explains the cemetery’s newly-enforced policy on the personal items. “There’s a lot of food left on grave sites. Alcoholic beverages. Grandpa’s favorite whiskey.”

After the removal of many items — many hand crafted and meticulously made  — Ruester acknowledges he has heard from many irate people who think the policy is a little heartless, to say the least. Especially at Christmas and the holiday season.

“There has been lots of name-calling,” he tells Mills.

  • Responsibility

    If they knew this was a rule, whether it’s been enforced or not, they must abide by it. It would have been nice however, if the new manager had stated somewhere that all rules were now going to be enforced so families and friends would have known in advance.

    • John

      If you pay attention to the story, there are signs posted that state the restrictions, and also the headline is incorrect, wreaths are allowed, the cemetery had a Wreaths Across America program where over 500 wreaths were placed December 10. So CBS needs to get there story straight.

      • Responsibility

        If you pay attention you’d know the signs have been there for years, the rule was just not enforced. Now it’s being enforced. So back to what I originally said – if it’s in the paperwork you must comply – even if it wasn’t enforced in the past.

  • Joseph Bellezzo

    Remember the veterans cemetary is not a party place or picnic area. Theat it like the Hallowed ground that it is. Remember the vet would not like to spend Xmas or his birthday there..

    • The Mad Man

      Amen! Think about the vet. The families are doing this for themselves, not the vet.
      Point well taken, the vet would not want to spend xmas here, so what meaning does a tree have for the vet?

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  • Wayne McVeigh

    Wreaths Across America, is a Nationally recognized Organizations,that supplies wreaths to be distributed and placed nationally and have shipped thousands of Wreaths that have been received and signed for by the cemetary personnel. These people knew the intent of these wreaths and
    accepted them.

    Now they are taking them away???? We need to stand up and let these people who they work for ultimately. they also need to respect the memories of the people who are the reason they have a Job.

    Wayne (Grumpy) McVeigh,

    • John

      The wreaths were placed December 10, the headline is incorrect. I placed a wreath Dec 10 and the wreath is still there.

  • ArmyVet

    I was one of the people who complained about the people next to my Fathers grave who kept placing a 6 foot tree with rope and anchors on my fathers grave. They were so disrespectful. I support the cemetery for taking charge of these slobs.

  • Gramps

    This story shows wreaths, the other story shows small trees, lots of flowers and small decorations. So why can’t they get the story correct. It appears the story started because a family wanted to place a 5 foot tree and secure it to a gravesite and the cemetery wouldn’t let them.

  • Joe Trump

    I believe that as a veteran that the cemetery should be maintained as all of our veterans would want it, maintain it with a military order.

  • Cathy

    How about an amendment to the rule? Let the bereaved place what they like on the graves of their loved ones if they agree to removal in a specified amount of time. Maybe a flat – very small- fee to offset the removal cost if the family does not do it themselves? Surely reasonable agreements can be made. Many cemetaries have extra services. Placement of balloons, wreaths, etc. could be one. These veterans were beloved family members before they were soldiers. If their loved ones need to place extra tribute on the graves, they should be able to do so.

    • Gramps

      Cathy, remember this is a national veterans cemetery, they don’t accept money from the public for any services. There are 250,000 gravesites out there. There needs to be rules and limits in society and what your suggesting is forgot the rules and limits, let the family do what they want. How about the 10 foot frosty the snowman I’ve seen out there, or the family having a picnic and throwing a football on gravesites, or the other family who brings their dog out there and allows them to do their business on the gravesite, should they allow that? That’s why there has to be limits because these families will do anything.

      • Cathy

        No, I am not saying forget the rules altogether. I think one can amend a rule without destroying the world as we know it. I mention small items- balloon and wreaths. These are not only flowers. You say ” there has to be limits because these families will do anything.” They sound like desperate criminals, indeed. They are the ones who have a dead husband, son, brother, etc. My father is a deceased veteran, though not in a veteran’s cemetary. Of course the graves should be respected. Animals defecating on graves is not respect. 10 foot inflated snowmen- very strange, not respect. Having a picnic by a grave? Actually, I have no problem with that if everything is cleaned up. That is a tradition in many cultures, to visit the dead. A cemetary is a place for the families to mourn, and I stand by my assertion that a compromise could be reached,even for an official veteran’s cemetary. It is worth trying.

  • Trump Riverside Entertainment

    […] Mourners Banned From Leaving Christmas Trees, Presents At … Mourners at Riverside National Cemetery try to "share" Christmas with their loved ones buried there. Related tags. Celebration, Dead, Mourners, Riverside National Cemetery, US Army . […]

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