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Dayton cemetery named a national shrine

The Dayton National Cemetery on the sprawling grounds of the VA Medical Center has been designated a national shrine, one of 14VA cemeteries nationwide to receive the recognition.

This marks the first time the Dayton cemetery has received the recognition, said Sean Baumgartner, acting director of the Dayton National Cemetery.

“It means we’ve pretty much exceeded what’s expected” for operations and maintenance at a VA national cemetery, he said.

The National Cemetery Administration, which is part of the VA, sent a team to Dayton for a five-day site visit last June to evaluate the nearly 117-acre cemetery on more than 20 graded criteria, said Paige Lowther, NCA acting director of business improvement service. The measurements looked at interments, headstones, and ground, equipment and cemetery maintenance, among other standards that were checked. The VA has 131 cemeteries.

“We’re very proud of our cemeteries that have achieved this special recognition,” Lowther said in a telephone interview Thursday from Washington, D.C. “A cemetery wants to be a shrine every day, not just the day the team is there.”

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The Dayton cemetery marked its first burial in 1867 and was declared a national cemetery in 1973. The remains of more than 45,000 veterans and their family members are buried on the grounds.

The recognition follows the discovery in 2011 that two veterans had been interred in 1984 in unmarked graves that contained the remains of two other veterans buried nearly a century before. The VA re-interred the veterans’ remains in separate graves after the discovery.

Brion Moore, NCA management analyst, said the VA has imposed checks and balances to avoid a similar error. The changes meant additional employee training, procedure checklists and rules for cemetery employees and contractors, and managers checking daily to ensure interments occurred correctly, he said.

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