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Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery Cracking Down On Items Left At Grave Sites

Gary Cooper
While floral arrangements are acceptable, items like balloons, pinwheels, glass items, vigil lights, candles, statues and stuffed animals are not allowed.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is asking families of the nation’s deceased military heroes to cooperate in its policy regarding mementos placed at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.  

The VA has posted a reminder effective March 1, and the National Cemetery Administration has a floral policy on its website that is also given to families.

Aubrey David, the assistant director of Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, said the policy expressly prohibits items other than floral arrangements.

“Objects that are not allowed on the grave sites that we’re having the issues with are items such as balloons, pinwheels, glass items, vigil lights, candles, statues and stuffed animals," Davis said. "Those are not permitted at any time throughout the year. Also, anything that is glass or easily breakable is not allowed.”

David said families often place these items at grave sites especially around holidays, such as at Christmas time, when other items are allowed for a specified period. Otherwise, items place on graves are collected and discarded once a month.

“If they do place something on the grave site, our pickup dates are always posted at both entrances to the cemetery," David said. "And if they would come a day or two before that, if they have a keepsake that they would like to take, then they can come out before that posted date and retrieve their items.”

David said the policy is in place to ensure that the cemetery maintains a national shrine appearance and displays dignity and respect to deceased veterans and fallen heroes interred there.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.