WASHINGTON —Denise Anderson lost her only son in the Iraq war. She's determined not to lose her fight to be buried with him in a national veterans cemetery.
Army Spc. Corey Shea died Nov. 12, 2008, in Mosul, with one about a month left on his tour of duty in Iraq. He was buried at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, about 50 miles from his hometown of Mansfield, Mass.
A grieving Anderson, 42, soon hit an obstacle in her quest to be buried in the same plot. That chance is offered only to the spouses or children of dead veterans; Corey Shea was 21, single and childless.
The Veterans Affairs Department grants waivers and has approved four similar requests from dead soldiers' parents since 2005.
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Anderson also sought a waiver. But under the VA's policy, she has to die first.
"It was the most devastating blow that I could ever get," she said in an interview. "I just miss him so much. Just being with him will give me some sort of peace."
VA spokeswoman Laurie Tranter said Anderson's waiver request was denied because it was made "in advance of her time of need, which is VA's policy for all such waiver requests."
Tranter noted, however, that just in case, Corey Shea's remains "were placed at a sufficient depth to accommodate her future burial."
Anderson is challenging the VA's burial policy with support from her congressman, Rep. Barney Frank, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
"The disproportion between what this country owes her and what she is asking is just as large as can be," Frank said.
The two lawmakers are pushing the Corey Shea Act, a bill that would allow burial privileges for biological or adoptive parents of dead veterans who are buried in any of the 130 cemeteries run by the VA's National Cemetery Administration. The act does not apply to burials at Arlington National Cemetery, which is maintained by the Army.
Frank's measure passed the House as part of a broader bill. Kerry is optimistic about the measure's prospects in the Senate.