Funeral services suffering from reduced staff?

By Amanda Porterfield |

Published 06/18 2014 06:08PM

Updated 06/19 2014 10:35AM

DANVILLE -- Danville's National Cemetery is down a few employees. The move is not only affecting how families bury loved ones, but a dedicated group of volunteer. WCIA-3's Amanda Porterfield has the story.

No one in this group of military men is younger than 65 years old, but they volunteer anyway.

"I have to keep reminding the guys we are here for one reason, that's the veteran. Don't matter if we are in the cold, ice, rain, sleet, heat."

But, in this heat, Ralph Reed says it's been a struggle to perform a military funeral five days a week.

"With this one a day thing, it's coming out in the middle of the day and it's the hottest part of the day, but we are doing it."

Usually they would only come out around three days a week and do multiple services per day, but the Danville National Cemetery lost two employees; one retired, the other resigned. Now, they're having at least one funeral every day of the work week.

"One a day at five days a week, that's tough. Can't get anything done."

Setting up for just one of these funerals can take hours and the cemetery says it doesn't have the staff to schedule them back-to-back.

"It's easier for the guys to do two or three because you're all dressed up. Guess what you got to do? Go home and wash it. Look nice the next day."

Cemetery representative Rudi Shelton says they're accommodating families on a case-by-case basis.

"When they absolutely want a certain day, that's when it gets frustrating that we can't accommodate in that regard."

They don't plan to hire new people to fill the positions they've lost. Instead, the cemetery says it's contracting the work out to local businesses.

"I think it's positive we've been doing a lot of contracting. Several people have been hired locally to work here with us. It's been really good."

They're reviewing contracts now and should know something by August of this year. Shelton says he doesn't know if or when scheduling will go back to the way it was before, but either way...

"We do it for the idea that we do it for the veteran whether it's good for us or not."

Shelton says, since April, the number of funerals they've had has increased. Volunteers say, already this year, they've done 75 funerals. They usually do about 175 for the whole year.

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